LAKE PLACID — After Monday’s rule-making workshop hosted by state health regulators, local nurseries have many questions and concerns about getting into the medical marijuana growing business.
Windmill Farms, Hardee County, President Eric Cord said it will require “deep pockets” to get up and running as a medical marijuana grower.
“You are going to have to come up with $150,000 30 days after you are awarded the license, plus a $5 million performance bond,” he said. “And that’s just the start of it, that is not the facility that you have to invest in and then the dispensaries and the lab.”
Cord did not attend the workshop, but spoke to other nursery owners Tuesday morning who went to Tallahassee.
The Department of Health has a lot of unanswered questions that have to get sorted out, Cord said. For example, he does not know if the license has to be in the nursery’s name or under the investment group if a grower partners with investors.
Also, none of the potential growers know what the application is going to look like and they have only 10 days to fill it out, he said.
Venus-based Delray Plants continues to be interested, and is considering the options, in becoming a medical marijuana grower.
The company is waiting to get information from its representative who attended the workshop, a Delray spokeswoman said Tuesday, who stated there is still quite a bit of confusion over some of the rules.
Delray has been “inundated with calls” since it was announced that medical marijuana would be grown in Florida, the spokeswoman said, Everybody says they are an “expert” and there are a lot of people looking for jobs.
Delray CEO Randy Gilde, who was unavailable Tuesday, said in May that his company has existing facilities that could be used to grow medical marijuana, but they would have to be retrofitted for improved security.
At the Tallahassee workshop, the top complaint was concerns about a proposed lottery system to award five organizations the chance to grow, manufacture and dispense a type of medical marijuana.
The Department of Health released a proposed rule June 2 outlining that the new regulated industry would use a lottery to select single dispensing organizations in regions where more than one application was submitted.
The state needs “way more than five” dispensaries, and the nursery locations are “very inconvenient for the patient populations,” said Kerry Herndon, owner of Apopka-based Kerry’s Nursery.
The state has a total of 41 growers, in five regions, that could potentially grow medical.
Delray Plants and Wards Nursery, Avon Park, are among six potential growers in the southwest region.
Cord said he initially believed Windmill Farms would be in the southwest region, but it is located in the central region so it would supply a dispensary located in the central region that goes from Tampa to the east coast.
Windmill Farms and Sunshine Foliage near Zolfo Springs are among the 17 potential growers in the central region.
If just one grower in a region is selected by a lottery, the four growers in the northwest (panhandle) region and two growers in the northeast region have much better odds of being selected compared to the other three regions. The southeast region has 13 potential growers.
Under the law, eligible growers are limited to nurseries that have been doing business in Florida for at least 30 years and are producing at least 400,000 plants.
Department of Health spokesman Nathan Dunn told reporters after Monday’s meeting that the agency would consider revising the rule to do away with the lottery and that the agency has fast-tracked regulations regarding the law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott just three weeks ago.
Florida’s new law makes legal certain strains of marijuana that are low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. The combination is purported to eliminate or dramatically reduce life-threatening seizures in children with severe epilepsy. The law also allows patients who suffer from severe muscle spasms or cancer to be put on a “compassionate use registry” for the low-THC product as long as their doctors approve.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.