After serving two Middle East combat tours with the Marines, Kris Policht is now considered 100% disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
And the 34-year-old Cocoa resident says marijuana is the only substance he’s tried that helps him sleep and remain at peace.
Tuesday, Policht dropped by Fluent Cannabis in Suntree for the first time to shop for medical marijuana drops and smokable flower. The dispensary, which opened in June — and still has a temporary sign facing North Wickham Road — was the expanding Miami-based company’s 11th in Florida and first in Brevard County.
„I’ve been through every single medicine the VA has offered. Two of them have put me in the hospital, and made me more suicidal,” Policht said, sitting in the lobby.
„This is the only thing that can calm me down,” he said.
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During the grand opening, Fluent Cannabis officials touted the 1,700-square-foot Suntree facility as the lone dispensary within a 9-mile radius, with more than 85,000 people living within a 5-mile radius.
The store’s parent company is Cansortium, a global medical cannabis firm headquartered in Miami. Formerly known as Knox Medical, the company was one of the state’s first five medical cannabis license holders. Today, Cansortium operates cultivation, processing and dispensary facilities in Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Puerto Rico, Colombia and Canada.
On Nov. 16, Fluent Cannabis opened its 17th Florida medical marijuana dispensary in Jacksonville, its second in that city. The company also operates dispensaries in Cape Coral, Casselberry, Clearwater, Cutler Bay, Fort Myers, Fort Walton Beach, Gainesville, Lake Worth, New Port Richey, North Miami Beach, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee and Tampa.
A Lakeland dispensary opened Thursday, with future stores slated for Coral Gables, Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Fort Pierce, Kendall, Miami Beach, east Orlando and Panama City, said Adam Sharon, company spokesman.
„We had a vision for medical cannabis in 2014. I think Florida was the perfect spot,” said Jose Hidalgo, Cansortium co-founder and chief executive officer.
„And it’s been an amazing ride the last four-plus years, seeing how the public perception has changed,” Hidalgo said.
Policht served with the Marines from 2006 to 2010, leaving the military as a sergeant. He served as a field radio operator during combat deployments in Ramadi, Iraq, and southern Helmand Providence in Afghanistan.
Florida ranks as America’s second-fastest-growing state in terms of patients signing up for cannabis registries, trailing only Oklahoma, Marijuana Business Daily reported.
As of Nov. 15, 283,909 Florida residents held medical marijuana patient ID cards, the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida reported. Number of qualified ordering physicians: 2,587.
„I always say that this is like a startup on steroids. The demand is big. But you also have to be a prudent businessperson, in terms of how you grow the business to meet that demand,” Hidalgo said.
Fluent Cannabis' Florida sales reached a company monthly record of $2.8 million in October, up 43% from September. Officials hoped their 60,000-square-foot Tampa cultivation facility would hit full flower and oil production capacity during the fourth quarter, a news release said.
Smokable cannabis, which was legalized in June, now represents more than one-third of the company’s Florida sales. Officials hope the company achieves profitability in the first quarter of 2020.
Hidalgo said he became interested in medical marijuana after he was nearly killed in a bicycle crash in 2011 in South Florida. He initially took opioids to relieve his pain.
Neale is the South Brevard watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @RickNeale1