Orlando cannabis company falsely drops names to sign growers

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A Republican fundraiser and a South Florida lobbyist each deny they are members of an Orlando company that applied for a cannabis-growing license, despite what area nursery owners are being told.

Florida Medical Cannabis Association executive director Cerise Naylor and other area plant market owners said last week that they had heard from the Medical Cannabis Cultivations LLC, saying attorney Frank Kruppenbacher and lobbyist Bill Rubin have been brought on board.

Kuppenbacher is an attorney with ties to Gov. Rick Scott, reports Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel.

Naylor and two other nurserymen said the firm dropped those two names as an incentive to sign partnerships.

Kruppenbacher and Rubin denied participation in the group, said Ryan Scotson, the company’s manager. Each said they offered only free advice to Scotson, not any active participation.

“What Frank said is absolutely right,” Scotson later told Powers. Regarding the use of false name-dropping or political pressure, Scotson added that he cannot make a statement.

Kerry Herndon, owner of Kerry’s Nursery in Apopka, said that an email from Scotson put Kruppenbacher, chair of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, as CEO of Medical Cannabis Cultivations, and listed Rubin as lobbyist.

As part of the new “Charlotte’s Web” law, signed by Scott in June, cannabis licenses will allow production of medical marijuana products used to treat certain medical conditions. However, only large Florida nurseries, which have been in operation for 30 years or more are eligible. The Department of Health will begin a draft rule workshop In Tallahassee on Monday.

Knox Nursery owner Bruce Knox said he too was approached, later hearing the false reports that he joined the company from other growers.

Knox told Scotson to stop using his name.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.