Hurricane Ian forces Florida marijuana companies to close as operators assess fallout

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A map showing the impact on Florida's cannabis from hurricane Ian.

Well over 100 marijuana businesses in Florida were shuttered Thursday as state operators assessed employee safety, flooding, structural damages and mass power outages in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

More than half the state’s 485 medical marijuana stores are located in the direct path of excessive rainfall and potential storm surges, according to data from the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use, the National Hurricane Center and MJBizDaily research.

Some of the state’s largest medical marijuana retailers are providing updates on closures on their websites and through social media.

  • Tallahassee-based multistate operator Trulieve Cannabis, the largest dispensary operator in the state, closed 55 of its 120 stores, according to the company’s website.
  • MÜV, owned by Illinois-based multistate operator Verano Holdings, had closed about 30 of its 59 stores Thursday morning, according to the company’s website. Seven reopened, and two additional stores closed as of press time.
  • Liberty Health Sciences, a unit of Miami-based MSO Ayr Wellness, announced Thursday morning on Twitter that it closed 39 of its 51 dispensaries. It has since reopened stores in Dania Beach, Port St. Lucia, Stuart and West Palm Beach.

Sevi Borrelli, vice president of retail in Florida for Ayr Wellness, told MJBIzDaily the current priority is ensuring its 700 employees are accounted for and safe.

“Our regional managers have been checking in with their associates, and we are close to accounting for all Florida employees,” he said.

At least 11 of Liberty Health Sciences’ stores are without power. Its Gainesville cultivation operation didn’t sustain any damage though, according to Borrelli.

“We’d like to give a shout-out to our team on the ground in Florida who did a great job preparing for the storm and ensured we navigated the storm safely,” he said.

“Providing patients with access to their medicine is always a key focus, and our teams are hard at work creating a reopening strategy.”

Verano has been closely monitoring Hurricane Ian to prioritize the health and safety of its workforce across Florida while maintaining patient access wherever safely possible, the company told MJBizDaily.

“As the storm continues on its current path and damage assessments and recovery efforts are ongoing, we encourage patients to visit our Hurricane Ian MÜV blog post where we are providing real-time hurricane and dispensary updates with the latest available information,” Verano said in a statement sent to MJBizDaily.

Unprecedented damage

In a state with some of the most destructive storms on record, local and national weather experts predict the toll from Hurricane Ian will be unprecedented.

President Biden said during a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing Thursday that the storm “could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history.”

By Thursday afternoon, 2.6 million residential and business electric customers were without power – or nearly a quarter of the state’s energy customers, according to PowerOutage.us, which records and aggregates live power outage data across the country.

Massive power outages have been recorded in the following counties:

  • Lee on the Gulf Coast, where emergency workers are engaged in search-and-rescue efforts and damage assessment.
  • Collier, which encompasses the hard-hit coastal cities of Naples and Marco Island.
  • Sarasota, located in west-central Florida on the Gulf Coast.

Taking precautions

TRP, a vertically integrated MSO, has been preparing its cultivation operation in Deland for the storm all week.

The city, just north of Orlando, has seen strong rains and winds the past five hours, with inclement weather expected for the remainder of the day, co-founder and CEO Brandon Johnson told MJBizDaily.

“Our employee safety is our No. 1 concern, and until it is safe, we will not be able to do a full analysis of the impact to our operations,” he said.

The Los Angeles-based company has 100 employees in Florida.

Though several areas around Orlando are experiencing intense rain, flooding and power outages, TRP’s cultivation operation hasn’t been impacted.

“Once the storm has passed, we will be able to fully assess, but at present, (we) do not feel it will impact our ability to serve the Florida patients,” Johnson said.

Boston-based Weedgets, which makes smoking devices and other accessories, readied its Miami operation for potential flooding along the coast.

“All inventory located on ground level was placed in elevated storage locations to avoid damaging our pipes and accessories,” founder Michael Barenboym said.

The company’s staffers were asked to work from home.

“Employees are our biggest assets at Weedgets, and we take all necessary steps to protect our workers,” Barenboym said.

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