The entire region of Northwest Florida may have trouble getting a nursery to grow, process, and distribute low-THC medical cannabis, because of a last minute amendment that was lobbied for by the Florida nursery industry and introduced by Rep. Matt Caldwell, and because of the Department of Health’s proposed rules for implementing the low-THC medical cannabis program. Caldwell’s amendment limited who could grow, process, and distribute low-THC cannabis, limiting it to large nurseries in business for over 30 years.
Under SB 1030, the state is to be divided into five regions, with only one nursery being selected in each region to cultivate, process, and distribute low-THC cannabis. Section 64-4.001 (5)(a) of the Florida Department of Health’s proposed rules for the low-THC cannabis program, defines the Northwest Florida region as consisting of Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Madison, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington counties.
Emerald Coast Nurseries Not Interested in Low-THC Cannabis
All of the nurseries along the Emerald Coast which appear to meet the requirements to grow low-THC cannabis are not interested in growing the medicine. Owners of qualifying nurseries in that area of Northwest Florida spoke with reporters from the Northwest Florida Daily News. “I have no desire to be included in that mess,” Dusty Horne of Crestview Nurseries told the Daily News. Don Plank, owner of Hiawatha Nursery in Navarre, and his brother Larry who owns Plank’s Nursery in the same area, are also not interested in growing the medicine for Northwest Florida. “I think the bottom line is for me it would not be very practical. I think nurseries that do it have to make a decision to go that way entirely or decide to stay in plants entirely,” Don Plank told the Daily News.
One of the companies listed as a potentially qualifying nursery is Simpson Nurseries, located in the City of Monticello, in Jefferson County. The nursery is operated by the family of
freshman state Rep. Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello). Governor Rick Scott’s Chief of Staff, Adam Hollingsworth, is Beshear’s cousin. While Beshears was seeking election to the state House, he hired the lobbyist for the Florida Nursery Growers Landscape Association as his campaign treasurer. However, Rep. Beshears did not file a conflict of interest report when he voted for SB 1030 and SB 1700, the bills which created Florida’s low-THC medical cannabis program. In May, when SB 1030 and SB 1700 were passed by the state legislature, it was reported that Simpsons Nurseries wasn’t interested in the low-THC cannabis program. At that time, the Miami Herald quoted Fred Beshears, the owner of Simpsons Nurseries, as saying, “We’re certainly not thinking about it today. I’m very leery about that and anything to do with marijuana.’’ It appears Floridians in Northwest Florida may have to travel long distances to get the medicine they need, that is, if nurseries are able to begin growing. Nurseries may run into trouble finding a legal source of seeds. Amendment 2 remains to be voted on this November, which if passed, would legalize a broad medical cannabis program that would allow a much larger number of dispensaries to open up across the Sunshine State.