Florida’s first walk-in clinics for medical marijuana are opening in tampa bay q gastrobar

##

Tracilea Young, president and founder of the California-based chain of clinics, saw an opportunity to expand in Florida after the most recent round of legislation passed in Tallahassee earlier this year. She’s opened six Tetra Health Care clinics in Florida so far. Five of those are in the Tampa Bay area, including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa and Brandon locations. She plans to open 20 more across the state by next year.

"With such a high population of aging communities, medical marijuana is needed here," Young said. "You wouldn’t believe the patients we see who come in here with Excel spreadsheets detailing all the medications they’re on and when they take which pill. I just want to cry for them."

Medical marijuana is a new but burgeoning industry in Florida, with laws that change nearly every year. Lawmakers have limited the selling and growing of marijuana to seven companies, but that number will expand to 17 this year, based on last-minute legislation that came out of a special session in Tallahassee earlier in this summer.

"Florida is the No. 1 state in terms of attracting marijuana companies right now," said Pete Sessa, chief operating officer and co-founder of the Florida Cannabis Coalition. "It’s the newest medical marijuana state. A lot of these companies want to expand and Florida is a natural next step for a lot of them."

Young sees a business opportunity in being the intermediary between the Florida Department of Health and the companies licensed to grow and sell cannabis in the state. Tetra physicians will write the necessary "recommendations" (doctors aren’t allowed to call it prescriptions) for patients to fill at statewide dispensaries. Tetra charges $198 for the service.

Potential patients shouldn’t expect to walk into a Tetra Health Care center and walk out with a doggie bag of weed. It doesn’t work that way. Patients need to bring a valid Florida I.D., and proof of residency in the state for either a walk-in or appointment. Staff walks potential patients through the criteria required by department of health to help them register as a patient. Once an applicant pays the $75 state fee and receives their registration I.D. card in the mail, they can go to a dispensary with the recommendation they receive from a Tetra physician to fill an order.

Young said the first time she and her husband went to get a recommendation from a doctor, they waited in a warehouse for hours. The doctor wrote the recommendation and quickly moved on to the other people waiting in line. Young decided she wanted to provide a more professional and customer-centric experience for patients.

"I don’t see the laws going backward at this point, but it’s tough to predict what could happen in the future," she said about the current legislation in Florida. "A lot of people voted for Amendment Two in Florida. Finally legislators are listening to what’s happening."

Young’s clinics in the Tampa Bay area see about 13 patients a day, on average. Inside, the clinics look like any other doctor’s office. Patients are greeted by reception staff adorned in medical scrubs. They receive a routine wellness exam and each exam room looks similar to any other doctor’s office.