ST. PETERSBURG — A medical marijuana chain opened the doors to its first dispensary in the city on Wednesday morning.
Trulieve, one of only a handful of companies in Florida authorized to grow marijuana and produce and sell cannabis products, opened its new shop at 8435 Fourth St. N at 10 a.m.
St. Petersburg will mark Trulieve's third location in the Tampa Bay area — following openings in Clearwater and Tampa — and its ninth in the state, with dispensaries in Edgewater, Jacksonville, Miami, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Lady Lake.
An hour after opening its doors, up to 40 people had already visited. Truelieve delivers statewide, but the company said that kind of traffic also proves the need for a storefront.
"People want to come in and talk about the product because it's new to them," said Trulieve spokeswoman Victoria Walker. "It's important to be able to talk with a person and learn more."
Trulieve provides cannabis products that include oils, liquids and pills.
Products have varying levels of THC, the chemical that sparks the euphoric high associated with marijuana. Some have none at all.
The company already delivers medications statewide but patients are able to avoid delivery fees by picking up prescriptions at a storefront.
Some of the very first customers traveled a long way to get their cannabis.
Freda Pillsbury, 70, drove about 30 miles north from Palmetto to shop in St. Petersburg. She has spent 20 years living with essential tremors, a disorder of the nervous system.
She's been all over the state to get the cannabis oil that helps alleviate her tremors. Sometimes it was Venice. Other times she had to go to Clearwater.
Pillsbury has only just started trying out the oils, she said, as her doctors have suggested they will help prevent the development of Parkinson's disease.
Shane Keinz, 42, came from Bradenton. He was first diagnosed with Chrohn's Disease when he was 18.
"I had horrible mornings where I would throw up for hours," Keinz said. "It was so bad. I couldn't breathe. Now, I can turn around right in the kitchen and use the vaporizing pen and I instantly feel better."
He said St. Petersburg location is now the closest dispensary he can use (but he is looking forward to Trulieve's Bradenton location to open in August.)
"It's been such a blessing," Keinz said of the medicine and dispensary. "It's made the biggest deal in my life. It's saved me."
"Maybe the laws aren't where everyone wants them to be but I'm so thankful."
Contact Samantha Putterman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @samputterman.