Last month, the first of three dispensaries permitted for Osceola County opened in the heart of Kissimmee’s tourism corridor near U.S. Highway 192 and State Road 535.
It’s called Harvest, and it recently became one of the largest cannabis companies in America.
Despite its big name and profits, the local Harvest site that opened Feb. 12 is housed in a purple pop-up modular trailer behind an abandoned, boarded-up Bob Evans restaurant affixed with prominent No Trespassing signs.
The old eatery is being gutted and refitted to sell the medical marijuana products currently permissible in Florida – oil pens, CBC oil, low-THIC items and edibles. Smokeable cannabis will eventually join the mix, thanks to legislation heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk this week.
A young man in a charcoal T-shirt screened with the word “Harvest” in orange letters sits on a bar stool to greet visitors inside the entrance of the modular out back.
The entryway where he sits is small, with two doors only accessible through a staff member swipe card. There’s also a double-sided mirror, an ATM and pamphlets about legal cannabis on a side table.
“Are you a medical patient?” the man on the stool asks.
If you’re not – meaning you haven’t already registered with the state and obtained a medical marijuana card from a place like Kissimmee-based Green Relief – this is where your visit ends.
The goal, said one Harvest employee, is to be in the bigger stand-alone building by June. The two other Osceola County locations – one in Poinciana and another near St. Cloud – should open around that time, too.
But Harvest wanted to get this location along U.S. Highway 192 open as soon as possible, said the company’s Communication Officer Ben Kimbro back in December.
Harvest is the one and only company approved by local government to operate retail cannabis shops in Osceola County. Local leaders approved a measure last February giving the green light to a Gainsville-based company called San Felasco Nurseries to open three dispensaries before slamming the door shut again via moratorium on any additional shops.
Before it opened, Orange County was the closest place to buy legal weed in-person. Delivery options were also available.
That gave San Felasco an exclusive cut of the rapidly growing Osceola County market.
But little news emerged in the months following, until late November, when Phoenix-based Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. announced it had bought San Felasco for $65.6 million.
The acquisition allowed Harvest to produce and process medical marijuana as well as operate up to 30 dispensaries statewide.
But it didn’t stop there.
Just this week, Harvest finalized a $850 million take-over of Verano, a privately-held Chicago-based pot company with major holdings in over 10 states.
The massive deal was announced Monday and is expected to finalize by mid-2019, giving Harvest licenses to operate up to 200 facilities in 16 states, including 123 retail dispensaries.
But in Kissimmee, the company’s presence remains modest in a temporary trailer behind an abandoned building along the West 192 corridor.