Medical marijuana business could boom in Florida if Amendment 2 passes

Posted at 6:10 PM, Oct 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-10 22:18:51-04
The medical marijuana business could see a boom in Florida if voters approve Amendment 2 next month.
One company is already operating full-service dispensaries in Clearwater and Tallahassee and a cannabis delivery business, with more storefronts planned in the near future.  
"To have a natural, non-addictive, plant-based solution for some of those patients, I just can't overstate the critical need for that around our state," said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. 
ABC Action News is one of the first television stations in the state to go behind the scenes of Trulieve's Tallahassee-area grow operation. 
The medical marijuana facility is housed in a nondescript building within a building.  Inside, a team of trained biologists controls every aspect of the environment; temperature, humidity, light intensity, and water intake. 
"If you have a weak plant coming out of here, it will stay weak throughout the entire process," said Trulieve's COO Jason Pernell. 
A room known as the "Flower Room" produces up to 65 pounds of marijuana at any given time. 
Oils are extracted from the plant and mixed with natural ingredients like olive oil and coconut oil, before being placed in consumption-ready products like capsules. 
Who can consume Trulieve's products could dramatically change after November's election. 
Florida's "Right to Try Act" allows terminally ill patients access to medical marijuana with high levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. 
Patients suffering from involuntary neurological disorders, like epilepsy, can take products with low levels of THC to help with crippling seizures. 
If passed, Amendment 2 would expand the conditions legally allowed for medical marijuana use; Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), HIV, AIDS, Cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and epilepsy. 
"For a lot of our military veterans who call Florida home who suffer from PTSD and who are, quite frankly, addicted to opioids currently, and for a lot of other conditions where really the only other alternative is an addictive opioid-type product," said Rivers.
Amendment 2 also calls for Florida's Department of Health to regulate production and distribution of centers and issue identification cards for patients and caregivers. 
Current patients are tracked by a state registry and require recommendation from a registered in-state doctor. 
"What I don't think you'll see is a pot shop on every corner," said Rivers." "That has been a fear of local communities.  So, while there will be expanded conditions and there will be expanded access, I don't think the regulations of the regulatory market will fade."
Six groups have been approved to grow and sell medical marijuana in Florida. 
State officials project 19 cities across Florida will have dispensaries once all operations are up and running. 
Trulieve is slated to open additional locations in Tampa and St. Petersburg by early November.