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Business Observer Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021 11 months ago

New medical cannabis dispensary designed to change the shopping experience

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Sarasota says hello to a new dispensary model designed to create a more relaxed environment before you even take a hit.
by: Amanda Postma Sarasota-Manatee Editor

There can be a bit of awkwardness surrounding a visit to a medical cannabis dispensary. A new shopping experience is attempting to change that. 

New York City-based Columbia Care’s new retail brand Cannabist recently opened a location in Sarasota — part of 14 locations that opened across Florida. Columbia Care, a cultivator, manufacturer and provider of cannabis products and related services, received approval last year from the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use to operate as a retail brand. 

Visiting Sarasota for the Cannabist opening in mid-December, at a location on U.S. 41 near Clark Road, Columbia Care’s Chief Growth Officer Jesse Channon acknowledged that walking into a dispensary can be intimidating. Cannabist aims to flip that narrative. “We wanted it to be more like a place you’d bring your mom,” Channon says. 

The chic look of plants that adorn the light fixtures and seating areas as well as the tables decorated with retail products contribute to the relaxed atmosphere. But the shopping experience is truly heightened with the brand’s Forage online cannabis discovery tool. 

The  technology greets you at the door, as a large screen that’s brightly lit. The design provides a personalized shopping experience kicking off with the question, “How do you want to feel today?” 

The web-based platform provides product suggestions based on the user’s mood and experience, and then connects with the local inventory and pricing. “It’s our firm belief you can be elevated without it being expensive,” Channon tells Coffee Talk. “It’s not meant to feel unapproachable.” 

Columbia Care operates 131 facilities including 99 dispensaries and 32 cultivation and manufacturing facilities. The Cannabist brand, launched last year, was designed to create a national network of dispensaries that use proprietary technology platforms. The locations will carry over 100 products from premium brands. 

Channon believes the brand will continue to blaze across the Florida market. “There’s an incredible opportunity here in terms of population and the growing community,” he says. 

The Sarasota location employs seven full-time and two part-time employees. “The sense of pride to bring this to these communities is the biggest buyout so far,” Channon says. “We love the Florida market.” 

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