One of the nation’s most popular cannabis brands is setting up its first Florida pot shop in Westchester, an unincorporated neighborhood in Miami-Dade County.
Cookies, a San Francisco-based marijuana business, was founded by rapper Berner. According to records, the 3,100-square foot building is owned by an affiliate company of Miami-based MV Real Estate Holdings. It is led by principals Guillermo Vadell and Alex Mantecon.
Miami voters will vote later this month on a proposal by MV Real Estate & Driftwood Capital to construct a $185million mixed-use project, Dream Hotel-anchored, on a city site along the Miami River.
Cookies is one of 22 companies that have state licenses in Florida to grow and sell medical cannabis.
TRP, an LA-based company led by President Daniel Firtel and CEO Brandon Johnson, secured Bird Road. TRP was established in 2019, and is a specialist in cannabis real estate. Johnson and Firtel stated that TRP also partners with Insane and Dr. Greenthumb, two national marijuana brands.
“Part of what TRP is doing in Florida is finding the right locations to get as close to patients, and get as close to convenience from a traffic and visibility [standpoint] — all the things a traditional retailer will look at,”Johnson stated.
Firtel said TRP signed Cookies’ lease in November of last year after spending several months scouting buildings in areas of Miami-Dade that allow medical marijuana dispensaries. “Miami is pretty blocked out from a zoning perspective,”Firtel said. “One of the reasons we looked at [Bird Road] is because the area is zoned properly. It is densely populated and it is very accessible to patients.”
Although a 2016 constitutional amendment made cannabis legal for medical purposes, opening a medical marijuana dispensary can be difficult in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties. The Florida Legislature approved rules and regulations that allowed medical marijuana license holders to place cannabis retail stores in their jurisdictions a year later. For example, Jupiter and Coral Gables in South Florida do not allow medical cannabis dispensaries.
Miami Beach commissioners passed regulations limiting the number of dispensaries that can open in certain areas in the South Beach, Mid-Beach, and North Beach neighborhoods. It also prohibited dispensaries being within 1200 feet of one another. According to Miami-Dade court records, AltMed and MedMen sued the city for cannabis restrictions in 2019 & 2020. However, the complaints were later dismissed.
Until recently, city leaders in Miami took a different tact, relying on City Attorney Victoria Mendez’s opinion that the federal prohibition on marijuana superseded Florida’s constitutional amendment, therefore deciding that granting dispensary permits would violate Florida law. Marc Roberts, a Miami-based real estate investor and developer, and Romie Chaudhari, a Los Angeles-based real estate investor, sued the city last year after they were denied a dispensary permit for a property they own at 90 Northeast 11th Street in Miami’s Park West neighborhood.
After a Miami federal judge ruled the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction and sent the case back to state court, the Miami City Commission in May approved the dispensary permit for the Park West property. However, the Miami Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board recently upheld staff’s denial of a dispensary permit for a building in Miami’s MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District owned by Michael Comras.
Municipal restrictions notwithstanding, TRP’s goal is to open 10 Cookies dispensaries across Florida in the next year, and a total of 25 retail sites within two years, Johnson said. TRP searched properties in South Florida from Homestead up to Boca Raton, Johnson said.
“We have three locations already permitted and under construction,”Johnson stated. “When we first started mapping Florida, the entire TRP team spent three weeks driving around every single city and just about every dispensary that we knew of … and then we went to work in each of those cities.”
According to a TRP statement, Johnson and Firtel combined have over 40 years of experience in commercial real estate. They have managed $4 billion worth commercial real estate deals and projects. For the past four years, both TRP executives have been specializing in cannabis real estate.
Contact Francisco Alvarado