Green Thumb CEO upbeat that Florida will OK Circle K medical cannabis deal

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A rendering of a Rise Express at a Circle K outlet

A rendering of a Rise Express outlet at a Circle K outlet in Florida.

(This story has been updated to correct where Circle K is headquartered.)

The CEO of Green Thumb Industries told MJBizDaily he expects Florida regulators to ultimately sign off on the company’s landmark deal to open medical cannabis dispensaries adjacent to Circle K gas stations around the state.

Under the marijuana multistate operator’s partnership with Circle K, MMJ patients could buy snacks and pump gas at Circle K convenience stores as well as purchase cannabis products from adjacent Rise dispensaries.

The agreement has attracted national attention and regulatory scrutiny since it was announced in October.

At the time, GTI founder and CEO Ben Kovler called the concept “a game-changer” for expanding retail channels by leasing space and locating MMJ stores adjacent to gas stations.

But shortly after the announcement, MJBizDaily confirmed that Florida’s health department, the state’s medical cannabis regulator, hadn’t signed off on the pact.

The health department’s position is unchanged, more than eight months later.

In April, MJBizDaily reported the deal was in litigation.

At the time, Chicago-based GTI provided MJBizDaily with this statement addressing concerns of the deal’s viability:

“As with all Rise dispensary locations in Florida, the opening of Rise Express stores remains subject to regulatory approval.”

Despite the setbacks, Kovler expects plans to proceed.

“We’re planning for it to happen,” he told MJBizDaily in a recent phone interview.

“We’re trying to get it over the line.”

Florida regulators and GTI did not respond to inquiries this week related to the litigation or ongoing developments.

GTI operates 10 Florida dispensaries under its Rise brand, according to the company’s website.

The MSO planned to start a “test and learn” rollout this year with about 10 stores across the state, according to an October news release.

Under this arrangement and Florida rules, MMJ dispensary operators would have to submit a variance request with regulators, state legal experts previously told MJBizDaily.

Circle K, based in Laval, Quebec, has more than 600 stores in Florida.

The company’s Canada-based parent, Alimentation Couche-Tard, did not respond to MJBizDaily inquiries.

Alimentation Couche-Tard has inked similar deals in Canada that allow commercial and medical cannabis retailers to co-locate at Circle K locations.

Green Thumb shares trade on the Canadian Securities Exchange as GTII and on U.S. over-the-counter markets as GTBIF.

Chris Casacchia can be reached at chris.casacchia@mjbizdaily.com.