With Charlotte’s Web rules being debated, Costa Farms hires Southern Strategy Group lobbying firm

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Editor’s note: The following is cross-posted from Politics of Pot.

Florida’s largest nursery has contracted the services of a Tallahassee lobbying firm to help take advantage of the state’s newest market — growing and cultivating the medical marijuana extract known as Charlotte’s Web.

Miami-based Costa Farms has retained Southern Strategy Group, the largest lobbying firm in Florida, in anticipation of new opportunities presented by the limited legalization of medical marijuana.

“We are a large, family-owned business with Florida roots and state government considers many issues that affect our business operations,” reads a statement from Costa Farms in response to an inquiry about its reasons for lobbying-up. “In light of that, Costa Farms has retained the services of Southern Strategy Group to represent our interests before the State of Florida.

The statement continues, “As part of our due diligence, the company is carefully monitoring the state’s rule-development process, as the final regulatory system will shape the nursery sector in our state in the years to come. Being a leader and job creator in this sector, Costa Farms has a responsibility to work with the State to establish a reasonable regulatory scheme.”

With the signing of Senate Bill 1030 in June, Gov. Rick Scott effectively created another cash crop for the Sunshine State, a strain of marijuana that is both high in cannabidiol, or CBD, and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient that produces a high.

Charlotte’s Web, supporters say, is useful for reducing seizures in children suffering from a rare form of epilepsy.

According to the new law, producers of the low THC version of cannabis are not required to have experience with herbs or medicinal plants.  However, in a last minute amendment to the bill, eligible growers must have at least 30 years of uninterrupted operational nursery experience in the state of Florida. The amendment also limits the production to larger nurseries, those that grow more than 400,000 plants.

Costa Farms, founded in 1961 by Jose Costa Sr., is a third generation family-owned Florida business with a global reach of more than 4,200 acres and 2,800 employees. Costa is now examining the possibility of adding medical marijuana to its core business, becoming one of the five state-sanctioned Charlotte’s Web producers in Florida.

Currently, Costa offers more than 1,500 varieties of indoor house plants and bedding plants.

As one of the largest plant sales outlets in the Southeast, Costa’s infrastructure also includes merchandising and transportation, with domestic operations in South Florida and North Carolina, as well as overseas branches in the Dominican Republic and the Far East.

Founded in 1999 by Paul Bradshaw, Southern Strategy Group has grown to become a leader in the Tallahassee lobbying industry, with five offices in Florida and others in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana Tennessee and both North and South Carolina.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.