Green Thumb deal to sell medical marijuana at Florida gas stations on hold amid litigation

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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.)

A novel deal unveiled more than five months ago by Green Thumb Industries (GTI) to lease space and open medical marijuana dispensaries adjacent to Circle K convenience stores in Florida has yet to win approval from state regulators and is now in litigation.

The plan – which would allow motorists to pump gasoline at select Circle K convenience stores and purchase MMJ from an adjacent Rise Express dispensary – drew national news coverage last October.

At the time, GTI founder and CEO Ben Kovler called the deal “a game-changer,” adding: “Convenience is a strong channel in retail, and people want more access to cannabis.”

Shortly after the October announcement, however, MJBizDaily confirmed the state’s medical cannabis regulator hadn’t signed off on the deal – a position that has remained unchanged since then.

“The department’s stance has not changed,” health department spokesperson Jae Williams told MJBizDaily this week.

“(The deal) is currently in litigation, so I can’t comment any further than that.”

Williams didn’t provide details about the nature of the litigation.

GTI, a Chicago-based multistate operator, this week noted the realities of the situation.

“As with all Rise dispensary locations in Florida, the opening of Rise Express stores remains subject to regulatory approval,” the company said in a statement sent to MJBizDaily on Thursday.

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

Circle K’s Florida operation and the company’s Canada-based parent, Alimentation Couche-Tard, did not respond to MJBizDaily inquiries.

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

Parent company Alimentation Couche-Tard has inked similar deals in Canada that allow for the co-location of a cannabis retail outlet at Circle K locations.

In Florida, GTI had planned to start a “test and learn” rollout this year with about 10 stores across the state, the company said in its October news release.

Under this arrangement and Florida rules, MMJ dispensary operators would have to submit a variance request with regulators, according to Florida cannabis attorney Matt Ginder.

If that request advanced, regulators would perform a site inspection to ensure the property complies with state law and, if so, would ultimately grant a dispensary authorization.

Ginder expressed some doubts the project design would be approved as originally envisioned.

“It’s hard for me to speculate, but if anybody is envisioning that it’s going to be a concept like a Subway in a gas station, that’s something that just would run afoul of the law and regulation,” said Ginder, a partner in the Cannabis Practice Group of Fort Lauderdale-headquartered Greenspoon Marder.

GTI emphasized in October correspondence with MJBizDaily that its stores would be adjacent to Circle K locations, “not inside them.”

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