NAPLES, Fla. - The business of the bud. We're three months away from the election when Floridians will vote on whether or not to legalize medical marijuana. people are already lining up; hoping to turn the green weed into green cash.
People are attending seminars all around the state. They're sometimes referred to as "ganjapreneurs." They want to get in on the money-making potential of medical marijuana and learn how to open a dispensary. Event leaders say, it's not political. They just want people to be educated and understand the risks and rewards.
"Almost everyone, I think, is thinking about the business aspect of medical marijuana," said Greg Clark of Naples.
Clark is one of southwest Flordia's strongest voices for medical marijuana. But before voters make the call, he's targeting entrepreneurs. "We want you to understand the risk," Clark said. "There's a lot to know on the technical aspects of farming and we really want them to have their arms around what to do legally and what not to do."
His organization, MMJ Savvy is planning its first in a series of statewide conferences, educating people on the business of the bud.
"It's not where you just throw a seed in the ground and it magically grows. There is quite a bit involved," said Jaitegh Singh, a federal attorney and educator with MMJ Savvy.
Their team, from accountants to attorneys have studied how legalization works in other states. There are 23 that already allow medical pot. They tackle topics from protecting crops from Florida's harsh summers to avoiding scams.
"We want to bring all that experience back to help our local people so that they don't get taken advantage of, they're properly educated and hopefully, they can get to a point where they can be successful in this industry," Singh said.
And, he predicts big bucks. "In the state of Florida, I think we are definitely expecting it to be a billion dollar, billion with a B, billion dollar industry," Singh said.
The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows 88% of Florida voters support medical marijuana. But, not everyone is on board. Thursday, the Florida Police Chiefs Association urged voters to rethink their support, reminding them that "recreational marijuana is still illegal on the federal level... and expanding its use for medical purposes doesn't make it any safer."
Adam Bierman is part of a company called MedMen, a marijuana business consulting firm. He warns people that the business of medical marijuana is not all green. "There will only be a handful of people in the state that get licensed," Bierman said at a seminar in Boca Raton. "But, this is where you need to catch up."
In a Skype interview from California, he told WINK News, "The truth is, out of the thousands of people who have interest, there might be a couple dozen that actually end up participating. I almost see my participation at this point as giving people reasons not to continue the process."
Bierman says issues like licensing, real estate, zoning restrictions and money need to be considered now because if Amendment 2 passes, he expects Florida to move quickly.
"You're talking about the end of 2015, hopefully, to see businesses open in the state of Florida," Bierman said. "I think you guys will have a booming marijuana economy."
MMJ Savvy is planning its first conference Friday Sept. 12-13. There is a public event on the 12th at 7 p.m. at Ron Dao's Pizzeria and Sports Bar in Fort Myers. On the 13th at 10 a.m., there will be an all-day conference at Harold's Club at Gulfcoast Inn in Naples. The conference is for interested investors and businesspeople. There will be a fee to attend. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 954-586-6000.
You can find information on other Florida events at: