Before Amendment 2, Legal Cannabis Industry Already Budding In Florida


With his raspy voice, long ponytail and friendly demeanor, George Douthitt is the guy you might get if you called central casting and ordered up a vintage pothead.

True to form, the 63-year-old eagerly accepted a delivery from his weed guy one recent morning, forking over $50 for a small package of marijuana.

This drug deal, however, quickly veered off script. The buy was completely aboveboard – as evidenced by the $3.50 in sales taxes tacked onto his tab.

Florida voters on Nov. 8 decide the fate of Amendment 2, which would widen the availability of state-regulated marijuana. But a legal cannabis industry already is budding in the state.

Douthitt is one of nearly 400 Floridians permitted to use a breed of cannabis known as Charlottes Web or Haleighs Hope – and once labeled Hippies Disappointment, because it has too little THC to get you high. The marijuana can be purchased only by patients whose doctors vouch that they struggle with seizure disorders or severe muscle spasms.

The low-THC cannabis can be grown and sold by only a handful of state-approved companies. These ganjapreneurs have invested millions in climate-controlled cultivation facilities, carefully calibrated toxicology testing and retail networks.

After taking delivery, Douthitt didnt light up – smoking marijuana flowers remains illegal in Florida. Instead, he lifted his vial of cannabis oil and carefully measured 5 milliliters, then squirted a few drops of the amber liquid under his tongue.

Douthitt, who lives in Pembroke Pines, suffers daily back spasms and cluster headaches, which he says are more severe than migraines.

It is a mule kick when it hits me, Douthitt said. They call them suicide headaches. You want to kill yourself.

The legal cannabis oil is low in THC but high in cannabidiol, or CBD, which is thought to ease convulsions, inflammation, anxiety and nausea. Douthitt says the CBD oil turns down the intensity of his spasms and headaches and eases his nausea.

Nobody knows why it does what it does, but it works, he said.

Douthitt buys his CBD oil from Trulieve, the marijuana business that was the first in the state to supply product to patients.

Trulieve operates an 80,000-square-foot growhouse in the Florida Panhandle town ofQuincy and this summer opened dispensaries in Tallahassee and Clearwater. The company also delivers throughout the state. Douthitt received his order at his doctors office in Lauderhill.

In addition to CBD, Trulieve makes high-THC cannabis, which is available to Floridians who are terminally ill. State lawmakers this year passed a measure legalizing full-strength pot for patients who are likely to die within a year.

Trulieve Chief Executive Kim Rivers said tens of thousands – and perhaps hundreds of thousands – of patients might sign up for Floridas legalized weed in the coming years, even if Amendment 2 fails.

While we dont think theres going to be an overnight boom, we do see it as growing steadily over time, Rivers said.

Amendment 2 would broaden the number of patients who could use high-THC cannabis legally. The measure would make pot available not just to people who are on their death beds but to patients coping with cancer, AIDS and other diseases.

Rivers is cagey about how much Trulieve has invested in start-up costs. The company was required to post a $5 million bond to win its state license, and setting up a statewide operation with 30 employees required a significant investment, she said.

For now, Rivers acknowledged, Trulieve is losing money. There simply arent enough customers in Floridas new cannabis programs to offset the hefty entry fee.

I dont think it takes an advanced degree in accounting to do that math, Rivers said.

Among the state-approved marijuana businesses is Modern Health Concepts of Miami-Dade County. Like Trulieve, it doesnt disclose how much it has invested to ramp up its business.

And like Trulieve, Modern Health Concepts touts the purity of its product and the cleanliness of its facilities.

Because Florida requires a physicians approval for medical pot, the states cannabis producers say they must persuade doctors that CBD is legit medicine.

Physician engagement is critical, said Richard Young, CEO of Modern Health Concepts.

For that reason, Floridas cannabis growers have taken pains to distance themselves from the industrys Cheech and Chong roots. In Colorado, where weed is legal to anyone who wants to buy it, strains are marketed with provocative brand names such as Outer Space, Bio Jesus and Dopium.

In Florida, on the other hand, cannabis companies say theyll be far more subdued in their marketing.

I dont think its something to be taken lightly, Rivers said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Before Amendment 2, Legal Cannabis Industry Already Budding In Florida
Author: Jeff Ostrowski
Contact: 1-800-926-7678
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Website: Palm Beach Post