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Friday, August 12, 2022

Cookies Opening Cannabis Dispensary In Westchester

From left: TRP’s President Daniel Firtel, MV Real Estate Holdings’ Alex Mantecon, and TRP’s Brandon Johnson with 8303 SW 40th Street (Google Maps, FIU Alumni, Getty)

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 firm co-founded by rapper Berner, whose real name is Gilbert Miliam Jr., is opening a medical marijuana dispensary Aug. 13 at 8303 Southwest 40th Street, also known as Bird Road. The 3,100-square-foot building is owned by an affiliate of Miami-based MV Real Estate Holdings, led by principals Alex Mantecon and Guillermo Vadell, records show.

Later this month, Miami voters will consider approving a proposal by MV Real Estate and Driftwood Capital to build a $185 million Dream Hotel-anchored mixed-use project on a city-owned site along the Miami River.

Cookies, one of 22 companies with state licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana in Florida,
secured the Bird Road building through its partner, Los Angeles-based TRP, led by CEO Brandon Johnson and President Daniel Firtel. Founded in 2019, TRP specializes in cannabis real estate and is also partners with two other national marijuana brands, Dr. Greenthumb and Insane, Johnson and Firtel said.

“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 said.

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.”

Opening a medical marijuana dispensary is not easy in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, even though Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment making cannabis accessible for medicinal purposes in 2016. When the Florida Legislature approved rules and regulations for medical marijuana license holders a year later, it gave cities and counties the autonomy to completely prohibit cannabis retail sites or restrict where such facilities can be placed. Coral Gables and Jupiter, for example, are two South Florida cities that do not allow medical marijuana dispensaries.

In Miami Beach, commissioners passed regulations that dispensaries can only open in small designated zones in the South Beach, Mid-Beach and North Beach neighborhoods. It also prohibited dispensaries from being within 1,200 feet of each other. Two companies, MedMen and AltMed, sued the city over its cannabis restrictions in 2019 and 2020, respectively, but the complaints were later dismissed, according to Miami-Dade court records.

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. In South Florida, TRP scouted properties from Homestead to Boca Raton, he added.

“We have three locations already permitted and under construction,” Johnson said. “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.”

Johnson and Firtel have a combined 40-plus years of commercial real estate experience, handling $4 billion worth of commercial real estate deals and projects, according to a TRP statement. Both TRP executives have specialized in cannabis real estate for the past four years.

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