A successful longtime black market pot grower in Washington is now a legit businessman in a state where sales top $1.4 million a day. He says “we’re the No. 9 grower in the state and my bank account just seems to stagnate.” Wait. How is that even possible?
Florida’s budding potpreneurs are listening.
Washington pot farmers, processors and sellers are grumbling. According to an Associated Press story, heavy state and federal tax burdens and competition from an unregulated medical marijuana market are making it hard on business.
Florida’s lawmakers are presumably watching. Medical pot is legal in 23 states – low-THC Charlotte’s Web doesn’t count – and John Morgan-powered United for Care is gathering signatures to force another statewide vote in 2016.
With Charlotte’s Web next deadline approaching — a pivotal milestone for growers — Florida hopes to avoid mistakes other states experienced with emerging cannabis industries.
“Looking back now, it’s amazing we could be so successful, and unsuccessful, at the same time,” Washington’s former illegal grower told the AP.
Or as a California pro told The Fray in April: “The business of marijuana in California is going very well. … Regulation, on the other hand, is a disaster.”The Florida Department of Health started accepting applications from hopeful Charlotte’s Web growers June 17. A 21-day filing period expires Wednesday. Five licenses — one each for five geographic areas of the state — will be awarded.
But health officials have up to three months to decide.
Regulations to grow, process, and dispense Charlotte’s Web are long and formidable. The rules also held up against a series of legal challenges. Many see Charlotte’s Web as a test ground for broader legalization.
In the wings, according to state records, are roughly 200 registered Florida businesses that are stoked to join the cannabis industry.
“Everyone wants to get into this business,” said Steven Cooksey, a medical marijuana business specialist in California.
Proposed specialty businesses in Florida, according to the Division of Corporations, include legal services (Medical Marijuana Law Group); security (Medical Marijuana Security of Florida); sales (Medical Marijuana Store); accessories (Medical Marijuana Shoppes); hangouts (Cannabis Café); and liquid refreshments (Cannabis Beverage Development).
Cooksey consults for MedMen, a firm that plans and executes medical marijuana business strategies in several states.
“It can take years for these programs to get off the ground and actually start licensing people,” Cooksey said in April, when Charlotte's Web was fighting lawsuits. “Most of these initial groups drop off … Once states finalize regulations, and application windows are announced, you'll see another flurry of activity."
MedMen was founded in 2007 and has helped more than 100 dispensaries and growers get off the ground. In Florida MedMen’s backers include N Squared Management, a Miami-based investment fund.
“In our experience," Cooksey said, "the ones who win are the ones who got there early, stuck it out, and had all of their ducks in a row when it came time to apply.”
» Captive breeding may be the last chance to save Florida's grasshopper sparrow, North America's most endangered bird. (Via Audubon)