The largest medical-only cannabis market in the U.S., Florida continues to be an attractive state for expansion for some of the biggest cannabis companies in the world.

Earlier this month, Massachusetts-based multistate operator Curaleaf Holdings Inc. announced plans to open three new dispensaries in Florida: a 5,000-square-foot facility in Bradenton that will have a grand opening May 13; a 5,821-square-foot facility in Tampa that will have a grand opening May 20; and a 3,156-square-foot facility in Orlando that will open at the end of this month, pending regulatory approval.

That expansion will bring Curaleaf’s retail footprint to 11 dispensaries in those three cities alone, and to 50 dispensaries in Florida and 133 locations nationwide.

While Curaleaf’s strategic expansion includes operations in 23 states, Florida in particular has been a key focus in recent months: The company has added 12 dispensaries in the Sunshine State since December, increasing its retail footprint there by 31.6%.

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With that expansion, Curaleaf’s Florida retail footprint trails only Tallahassee, Fla.-based Trulieve, which had 115 operating dispensaries in the state as of May 5, according to Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU).

Overall, more than 37% of Curaleaf’s retail footprint nationwide is now dedicated to Florida.

The company’s recent focus on expanding access there comes as the state’s patient base continues to rapidly grow, Curaleaf new CEO Matt Darin tells Cannabis Business Times. He highlights that detail and more in this Q&A.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for style and clarity.

Tony Lange: Why is Florida’s medical cannabis market attractive to Curaleaf to the point where more than one-third of your company’s U.S. retail footprint is dedicated there?

Matt Darin: Florida has one of the largest medical markets in the country and it continues to rapidly grow, nearly doubling its patients in the past year. Additionally, with the 21-plus population expected to surpass 16 million by 2025, we anticipate this growth to continue. Our presence is a testament to our commitment to medical patients and expanding access to cannabis. We want to ensure we are able to serve and supply the most innovative and high-quality cannabis products and grow with the demand. 

TL: What made Bradenton, Tampa and Orlando attractive locations for your three new dispensaries?

MD: Bradenton, Tampa and Orlando have been great markets for us, and we have been able to establish strong relationships in the local communities and with patients. Our three new locations allow us to provide convenient access to innovative products and services. Expanding access to high-quality cannabis care is one of Curaleaf’s guiding values, and we look forward to serving and empowering even more patients by leveraging our footprint across the Sunshine State. In addition to supporting Florida’s dynamic patient community, we are also proud to provide meaningful professional opportunities within the local cities we serve to showcase cannabis’ wider positive social impact through our, now 50, dispensaries across the state.

TL: With your 50 Florida dispensaries representing 15% of the statewide market share, how competitive is the cannabis landscape in Florida compared to other states you operate in?

MD: In Florida, we have continued to execute successfully on our business plan, scaling our operations and becoming the solid No. 2 player. We are best in class in terms of volume per store and have consistently increased our market share. Flower sales have increased 129% year-over-year and oil sales have increased 102% year-over-year, being done with only eight new store openings. The capital spent on expanding capacity during the height of the pandemic and last year are seeing strong returns and operating efficiencies are increasing by the day.

TL: In addition to expanding your retail footprint, what other preparations are Curaleaf leaders making in Florida in anticipation of the state possibly legalizing adult-use cannabis at some point down the road?

MD: Curaleaf is an industry leader that has successfully launched adult-use markets across the country, including Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, and most recently, New Jersey. We have taken our learnings and best practices and created a successful template for how to seamlessly transition while prioritizing our patients. These best practices include adding new team members at each of our dispensary locations and cultivation centers, increasing capacity to better serve the market’s product needs. 

That said, we will be prepared to serve an adult-use market whenever the time comes. Regardless of when that may be, we are and will remain committed to our medical patients.

TL: What consumer trends have you noticed in Florida that you’re hoping to capitalize on with your three new dispensaries?

MD: Curaleaf’s R&D strategy is rooted in delivering novel and exceptional customer experiences…. Florida continues to be a market where we are driving innovation and increasing our product variety with the recent launch of live rosin vapes and concentrates, Select X Bites and Blue Kudu chocolates, which has led to further output through our dispensaries, with milligrams dispensed per store growing 68% from March of 2021 to March of 2022.