Editor’s note: The following is cross-posted from Politics of Pot.com.
Growing and selling marijuana or a cannabis extract is a bit more complicated than cultivating tomatoes even if the Florida Legislature did pass a medicinal marijuana bill and voters do approve a more expansive constitutional amendment in November.
When the marijuana industry emerges from the underground it will sprout a host of rules governing its use. The state wants to track marijuana sales and collect taxes while the federal government, which also collects taxes on it, considers marijuana an illegal plant, exposing growers and retailers to prosecution.
A day-long seminar in Boca Raton Friday will bring together plant, security, business and legal experts to discuss how to navigate a tricky legal terrain while marijuana policy shifts from prohibition to regulation.
The Florida Cannabis Coalition is producing Canna-Ed Day at the Renaissance Boca Raton Hotel. The seminar features Adam Beirman, President of the MedMen, a full service consulting and management firm for business operators and Tyler Markwart, a medical marijuana columnist from Washington State with 20 years of cannabis and agriculture experience.
“The only people making money off this right now is the people putting on events like this,” said Kerry Herndon, a south Florida grower interested in one of the five Charlotte’s Web licenses authorized by the legislature.
“What’s there to talk about?” asked Herndon. “The rules haven’t been written yet.”
Monday the Department of Health held its first rulemaking workshop for implementing the medicinal marijuana law signed by Gov. Rick Scott. Doctors will be able to begin ordering a cannabis extract for patients beginning Jan. 1, 2015. DOH is expected to issues regulations sometime before that.
One problematic area for the marijuana industry in the 21 other states that have relaxed their laws is the handling of money. The National Cannabis Industry Association estimates medical marijuana will be a $785 million industry in Florida. But banks may be unwilling to deal with growers and vendors out of fear that because of the federal prohibition they could be charged with money laundering or racketeering.
Banking industry groups say the Justice and Treasury Department guidelines for dealing with the marijuana industry did not ease their fears. One banker told a Colorado newspaper the guidelines amount to “serve these customers at your own risk and it emphasizes all of the risks.”
Author Tony Dokoupil recently told NPR’s Fresh Air that because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, “banking has long been a headache for the cannabis industry.”
Tony Gallo, an expert on financial loan service, retail loss prevention and armed robbery prevention is a scheduled speaker at Friday’s seminar. In other states it is reported that dispensers received banking services by being less than forthright about their business.
“Events like this are an educational opportunity,” said Robert Jordan, a scheduled speaker who last year escaped prosecution in Florida when he invoked a “Medical Necessity Defense” after his arrest for growing marijuana for his wife, Cathy, who suffers from Lou Gehrig disease.
“These events don’t help with changing policy in Tallahassee,” said Jordan. “Cathy and I will be there to talk about the whole plant and freeing it from prohibition.”