Editor’s note: this article is cross-posted on PoliticsOfPot.com.
The rush for a Florida lobbyist by companies wanting a part of the state’s medical marijuana industry continues. Regulators are developing plans to implement a medicinal marijuana law passed this spring and polls indicate voters will approve much looser restrictions on cannabis in November.
Industry experts speculate the Florida market will generate at least $700 million annually in sales and with that in mind companies are lobbying up to influence the details of how medical cannabis will become available in the Sunshine State.
“It’s my personal and professional mission to help implement the law properly,” said Ron Watson of Watson Strategies. “I’ve seen suffering no parent should see and I don’t want any other parent to see such suffering.”
Watson has more than 20 years of experience lobbying on behalf of health care companies and associations. Nearly three years ago he lost his eight-year old son to leukemia. Watson said he was struck by the “momma bears” of sick children who testified on behalf of medicinal marijuana proposals and last year started his own firm so that he could speak freely on the subject. Now, his clients include the Florida Medical Cannabis Association, Alt Med out of Sarasota and Mary’s Medicinals of Colorado.
Mary’s Medicinals, according to its website, is intent on becoming a world-wide company. It has expanded to Washington and has become involved in Florida. During the Aug. 1 workshop on rules, Watson sought clarification on whether regulators would prohibit products like the transdermal patch, gels and compounds Mary’s produces, they’re still in the mix.
AltMed LLC, formed in January after Michael Mullen watched a CNN documentary on marijuana. He and other investors plan to pump $5 million into the company and are preparing to start construction of a 5,000-square-foot building as part of an initial investment.
Watson and others are signing up new clients as Florida prepares to change its marijuana regulations.
The Miami-based grower has quietly been signing with Tallahassee influence peddlers; the company has also retained Sachs Media Group.
Costa has more than 9 million square feet of greenhouses and is ranked number 3 on Greenhouse Growers list of top 100 growers. It employs more than 2,800 workers in Florida, North and South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Its lobbyist urged regulators during the Aug. 1 hearing to shield owners from federal marijuana and racketeering laws by amending a rule requiring that a sponsor grower directly own the dispensing organization. Such an arrangement may place the grower at odds with federal banking regulations aimed at drug cartels.
“Our client and most of the qualifying nurseries here have extensive commercial and banking transactions that cross interstate lines, . . . they don’t need to be halted or harmed because of a new specialized unique medical marijuana business,” said Douglas Mannheimer of Broad and Cassel’s Tallahassee office. “We urge you to amend to provide significant common ownership but do not require direct ownership.”
And a firm co-founded by former state senator and chair of the Florida Republican Party, Van Poole, has signed a cannabis client. PooleMcKinley’s clients include Comcast, Miami-Dade County and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Now, it has a company on its roster that bills itself as the world’s leading law firm in the marijuana industry. VS Strategies LLC is a Colorado-based lobbying firm which has hired PooleMcKinley as its Tallahassee representative. The VS website states that, “VS Strategies team members have been key figures in changing the culture and the business climate surrounding marijuana.”