Low-THC Cannabis Benefits Florida’s Agricultural Industry
Governor Rick Scott signed SB 1030, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, into law on Monday, June 16th 2014. The state legislature had passed the bill on May 2nd. Gov. Scott said in a prepared statement that, “As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer. The approval of Charlotte’s Web will ensure that children in Florida who suffer from seizures and other debilitating illnesses will have the medication needed to improve their quality of life. I am proud to stand today with families who deserve the ability to provide their children with the best treatment available.”
Under the new law, 5 nurseries in the State of Florida are to be opened to grow, process, and dispense low-THC cannabis and cannabis oil extracts high in CBD. Under SB 1030, professional nurseries in the state which have operated for at least 30 consecutive years, and hold a valid certificate of registration issued by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the cultivation of more than 400,000 plants. Nurseries would be required to post a $5 million bond and demonstrate they have the financial ability to maintain operations for the duration of the 2 year approval cycle. About 40 nurseries in the state could be eligible to participate in growing, but only 5 will be chosen, one for northwest Florida, northeast Florida, central Florida, southeast Florida, and southwest Florida.
Restrictions Crafted by Nursery Industry
The state nursery industry lobbied and worked with the legislature in creating the strict requirements to grow, process, and dispense low-THC cannabis. State Rep. Matt Caldwell(R-North Fort Myers) added the restrictions the Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association was lobbying for, in a last-minute amendment to SB 1030. On the requirement that a nursery have been in continuous operation for 30 years, Ben Bolusky, CEO of Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association, said, “Is 30 years an arbitrary number? Probably, but it’s a first step.” Opponents say these restrictions were put in place to prevent competition, and keep prices high through a monopolistic cartel of nurseries. Bolusky says to those critics, “It certainly telegraphs that they didn’t want any new or fly-by-night operations to set up in Florida.” Delray Plants Co. CEO Randy Gilde said, “If there weren’t going to be any restrictions then you would have had 100 backyard one acre facilities competing so the price would have been competitive and would have driven the price down so we weren’t interested. Now that there are only going to be a select five that can do it in the state, we are looking at it.” Delray Plant Co., located in Venus, is another eligible nursery that is looking at growing low-THC cannabis.
Windmill Farms Nurseries Inc. of Hardee County is one of the state’s nurseries which believes they meet the qualifications to open a low-THC cannabis dispensary under the new law. The owner and president of Windmill Farms Nurseries, Eric Cord, says that he would like to grow the Charlotte’s Web strain at his nurseries. Cord is in contact with the developers of the Charlotte’s Web strain in Colorado. “I don’t think any of us nurseries down here really know anything about it at this point. Everybody is scrambling to research and try to find out exactly how and what and what it is going to take.”
FL Ag. Commissioner Opposed to Growing Outdoors
Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, recently told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that, “There won’t be fields of marijuana growing in Florida,” and that, “It will be grown under roof, in controlled environments, inside, for obvious security reasons.” However, nothing in SB 1030 requires the 5 nurseries that will be chosen to grow their low-THC cannabis indoors. The bill only requires that a nursery have the ability to cultivate and produce low-THC cannabis, as well as the ability to secure the premises, resources, and personnel necessary to operate as a dispensing organization, and the ability to maintain accountability of all raw materials, finished products, and any byproducts. However, some nurseries, like Windmill Farms Nurseries, are interested in growing low-THC cannabis outdoors. “Obviously, Delray has got a lot of greenhouses, but we’re looking at other ways other than the greenhouse angle,” Windmill Farms Nurseries owner and president Eric Cord said.
Florida’s Agriculture Industry Has Mixed Feelings on Broader Legalization of Medical Cannabis
Voters will have the opportunity to pass Amendment 2 this November, which would not only open up competition and bring prices down, but would allow far more people who have a medical need for cannabis to have access to it. Some nurseries which are considering growing low-THC cannabis are not interested in Amendment 2, for fear competition would bring down prices, while other nurseries have said they would consider growing other types of medical cannabis if Amendment 2 is approved. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is opposed to the broader medical cannabis program that would be created by Amendment 2, though he believes it will be approved by voters.
Write in to Ask Buddy to see the list of Florida nurseries which qualify under SB 1030 to grow, process, and dispense low-THC cannabis.