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Of late, it seems like dispensaries are everywhere — but not all stores carrying cannabis products are created equal.

After Sunnyside dispensary opened up shop in Fort Lauderdale this summer, the business expanded to Oakland Park with its grand opening on Friday. Owned by Cresco Labs, the No. 1 wholesaler of cannabis products in the U.S., The Gazette chatted with Cris Rivera, the regional president for Cresco Labs and Sunnyside, about the new venture — and how it’s changing the landscape of health.

A quarter of your business is in Florida, with this being the 39th store nationwide. Why is Broward County an ideal location?

Fort Lauderdale is one of the premier population centers in the entire state and it currently only has around four dispensaries ... It’s not a lot of dispensaries serving a large area. We’re excited to expand access, which is what this is all about — expanding access to patients so they can easily get their medicine. We’re all about making shopping for cannabis simple because we view it as going to CVS or Walgreens. It should be that easy for any patient to get.

What about Oakland Park in particular?

Oakland Park is the center of the Fort Lauderdale area in essence. Its population is growing, it’s a super diverse community, and it continues to see an increase in homes. The amount of growth that Oakland Park is seeing in the last four to five years is pretty impressive. Us being part of that journey of Oakland Park growing into its new self is really exciting for us.

What sets Sunnyside apart from other dispensaries around town?

It starts with the quality of the product. You’ll be hard pressed to find as good a medicine as in some of the other dispensaries. We’re really quite proud of the products we make from the flower to our raw and concentrates, which are really unseen in the marketplace outside of our stores. Second is our staff. We’re all about making the customer experience as delightful as possible. For some people they’re experts at cannabis, and for us, we’ll meet them at their expert level. And for others they're new and they’re trying to find the right solution for their ailment and we want to make it easy to understand instead of complicated, which it can be for some people.

What are the benefits of using your products?

There are a number of conditions that the state allows one to become a patient. They can run from, unfortunately, severe cases like terminal cancer and you need help with pain management all the way to anxiety, PTSD, and restlessness. Cannabis can actually from a medical perspective help alleviate excruciating pain from terminal conditions all the way to helping one find sleep and rest so they can start their day off as perfectly as possible.

What products can customers find at Sunnyside Dispensary?

We’re known for our flower, so we have premium flower. We usually sell them in an eighth of an ounce or 3.5 grams of pure flower, and they tend to be really large buds that people break up and you can put into a bong, roll your own joint, however you prefer to enjoy your product. That makes up about 50% to 60% of the product coming out the store. The other kind of subcategory that exists would be vaping. We have great vape options, so the same number of strains you would find in flower you can find in vaping. What I love about vaping is the convenience and on-the-go nature of it all. If you’re looking for a discreet way to ingest your medicine, this is an easy way to take it. Tinctures are a great way to either take it sublingual, right under your tongue and it absorbs into your bloodstream pretty fast, or you can put it into your drink and like an edible over time you can enjoy the effects of your medicine.

What about edibles?

We’re very excited about our edible business that will come in January 2022. Edibles are another way to easily dose your medicine, especially for people who don't like to smoke. Some people have lung issues so they have to look to edibles, tinctures and capsules to ingest their medicine, so we want to make sure we always look out for them.

What’s a misconception that people have about using cannabis as medicine?

That cannabis is only flower. It is predominantly what people choose in which to take their medicine, but ultimately, we sell products from flower of course to tinctures, lotions and balms, edibles, soon to be coming to Sunnyside. So if you’re not a smoker, you can be a vaper. If you’re not a vaper, you can ingest. There’s an intake method for anyone’s preference. There’s also different dosing. Some products are really high in THC and others are really low. We're here when you come in as a new customer to show you what we have in our portfolio.

How do we get rid of the stigma of using cannabis?

I think the stigma is slowly changing. We see it each and every day. There are 600,000 patients in the state of Florida and the number continues to grow at 2 to 5% monthly. As people use the product, understand the benefits, and talk to their friends and family about how cannabis is changing their life, I think we’re slowly eroding that stigma. Everyone thinks cannabis is the dark side of life. We were told that for so many years, so our goal at Sunnyside is that using cannabis is actually the sunny side of life.

Sunnyside, 499 E. Oakland Park Blvd. in Oakland Park; 877-395-1009;

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