Lobbying on marijuana issues already showing green shoots

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Marijuana lobbyists — a new strain of the same political species — in short time have become deep entrenched in states like Colorado and Washington. And for the first time, in any real sense, marijuana lobbyists have sprouted up in Florida, too.

I’m not talking about Florida’s “littlest lobbyist,” RayAnn Moseley, who became the persuasive face of the 2014 fight for the non-euphoric but highly therapeutic Charlotte’s Web.

Rather, as marijuana takes an increasingly hot spotlight in Florida’s legislature, campaign trails, and on the November ballot, cannabis activists see a growing role for professional lobbyists in the advocacy bowl.

Take Jeff Sharkey, who along with Taylor Patrick Biehl, newly represents the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida (MMBAF). Sharkey, an accomplished entrepreneur, must have seen an opportunity to not only lobby for, but also to create, an organization that may come to represent the interests of the myriad industries who will benefit from the legalization of this cash crop: he and Biehl registered the MMBAF with the state on May 19.

A quick browse through Florida’s Division of Corporations website shows Sharkey wasn’t the only one to get this idea. About three dozen medical marijuana organizations have budded into existence over the past few months.

Well-known lobbyists Ron Watson and Louis Rotunda are also new lobbyists for the Florida Medical Cannabis Association. This group knows well the level of interest lighting up over this newly passed law.

While SB 1030 is highly restrictive in which farms may grow Charlotte’s Web (only five throughout the state, all of which must meet strict guidelines on tenure and capacity), it is clear that many see this measure as a “gateway law” to far more permissive opportunities in the future.

Even a small spark of such hope is enough to light that fire. The Florida Medical Cannabis Association’s phone rang off the hook following session with calls from vendors, distributors, and investors with green pastures in their sights.

Some new entities are lobbying-up though it is unclear from a distance what their focus will be. Take for example Sanctuary Cannabis, LLC, registered to Alan Perlman and Robert McKee. Perlman, a bankruptcy attorney in Fort Lauderdale, filed with the Division of Corporations on March 6 of this year and this week signed lobbyists. And his hires were solid ones: Gary Rutledge and Jon Costello with Rutledge Ecenia PA, and Steve Schale, Democratic operative extraordinaire.

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.