NEW PORT RICHEY – Fluent Cannabis Care has opened here, but the folks who run it don’t want people to see this shop through the stereotypical eyes that follow those who choose to use cannabis.
Cam Martin, Fluent associate director of retail, explained the doors are unlocked at 10 a.m. and guests can “walk in freely and are greeted by our reception staff.”
Some of the people who have already taken advantage of their services have noted the “medical” look of the office, Martin said.
“We have a nice waiting area in the lobby just as you might find at a doctor’s office,” Martin said.
He said it is usually one to five minutes to get a customer checked in and taken back to the sales area which is patrolled “every minute with the staff.”
“They look out for the security of both our patients and employees,” Martin said. “It’s a very safe environment with a lot of magnetic locks on all the doors. It would be a task to get to the sales area by yourself.”
The New Port Richey location, in the River Ridge-Deer Park area, has five sales desks, which allows for quicker customer service in what Martin describes as a “sterile, medical feeling.”
A private consultation room is available for first-time users of medical cannabis as well as meetings with staff members about other specific or personal medical issues customers may want to discuss.
The room is supplied with a phone where patients and staff can contact a doctor or medical professional should that type of consultation be requested or necessary.
While the dispensary still handles cannabis in all of its previously available forms, it does also carry what the industry terms as the “flower” form of cannabis. This smokable marijuana is now legal under Florida law, following a lengthy debate in the Legislature and threats of legal action from medical cannabis advocates.
The plant is sold in white, plastic containers and are clearly marked as a prescription would be from any pharmacy. Pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes are also sold in small colored tubes that are marked in the same way.
“The law is clear on the limit of cannabis a patient can have,” Martin said. “We are part of a system which alerts us should a person be attempting to purchase more than is allowed. We strictly follow all laws and guideline. We are here strictly for medical purposes as recommended by a licensed and professional physician.”
It might surprise some, but Fluent requires would-be employees to undergo pre-employment drug screening, although evidence of cannabis use is not a disqualifying factor for employment.
“However, we know when someone is at work and ‘high’ instead of being at a level where they can be of quality service to our customers,” Martin said. “That is where we do have a situation with an employee that we do have to take whatever steps may be deemed necessary for that instance.”
Fluent CEO Jose Hidalgo says he understands why some people remain skeptical of shops such as Fluent.
“It is all about that stereotype of the stoner you think of in the Woodstock age,” Hidalgo said. “The world has changed and the use of marijuana is not just about getting high anymore.”
He recalled his own experiences with marijuana after being in a serious car accident and how it helped him through his injuries.
“That is one positive I believe about the use of medical marijuana and cannabis,” he said. “We are in the midst of a horrible opioid crisis, where the medical and pharmaceutical industries have ignored the addictive nature and dangers of those pain killers. We provide an option to both doctors and patients that steers away from that type of therapy to one that has proven to be safer and, in many instances, just as effective.”
Despite the fact Florida has now approved the sale and use of the smokable plant, Hidalgo said it is not Fluent’s job to push that option.
“If there is someone who has breathing problems or is trying to quit smoking, of course smoking the plant should not be a serious consideration when there are other modes available to get the same results,” he said.
Hidalgo is quick to add it is because of the popularity of smoking the plant that Florida voters overwhelmingly gave its medical use landslide approval via an amendment to the state constitution.
“It is important for people to understand we are not a ‘head shop,’ we are a pharmacy and we treat our patients with care and concern for their well-being,” Hidalgo said.
Because of the unclear laws, rules and regulations on the financial side of the cannabis industry, Martin said the office takes cash or debit payments. It also accepts CanPay, which calls itself “the world’s first debit payment app for cannabis retailers and other emerging industries.”
Fluent is also preparing a drive-through window which can be used especially for those patients who are signed up for the shop’s express service.
Martin is quick to point out Fluent does not approve of drivers smoking the plant in their vehicles while they are driving.
The New Port Richey location is at 5138 Deer Park Drive, Suite 105. It can be reached by phone at 727-232-0862.