Author Jerry Iannelli

Illustration by Alvaro Diaz-Rubio

Over the past several months, New Times dug into the backgrounds of the seven companies’ current and former owners, executives, and partners. These marijuana moguls include some of the state’s best-connected and savviest businesspeople. Many also have backgrounds that haven’t been explored in-depth. Among them are a real-estate developer once tied to political corruption, a hedge fund manager who recruited two gambling tycoons as investors, an attorney embroiled in a burgeoning Tallahassee FBI probe, a Gainesville entrepreneur who bought a franchise from one of the largest cannabis companies in Colorado, an ex-IBM executive, a Miami mortgage broker, and some of the largest nursery operators in Florida.

Mark

Most sensible Americans these days believe in ending the War on Drugs. The facts are clear that low-level drug arrests ruin lives and tear families apart. Some day, selling weed in Florida will no longer feed thousands of new prisoners into the state’s broken criminal justiceBus system.

But that day has not yet come, and until ganja is truly legal in the Sunshine State, it’s not a great idea to throw a gigantic, open-air “medical marijuana” celebration fueled by 50 pounds of weed. That’s exactly what a group of Miamians attempted to do this past weekend by throwing what sounds like among the greatest stoner sessions in human history — only to get busted in a house that sat a mere six blocks from Miami Police headquarters.
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The City of Miami might want to consider testing Barnaby Min for drugs. The deputy city attorney must have been high when he compared legalizing medical marijuana to legalizing pedophilia during a Miami Planning Board session last week. He was arguing against dispensaries in the city. In the tape of that meeting, Min comes off like that college stoner kid who takes massive bong rips before giving a speech in class.

“If the City of Miami, for some infinite, God-forbidden reason, thought having sex with a child was a great way to recover from some issue and so we wrote that into our city code, just because the city says that’s legal doesn’t mean it’s legal,” he said.

Kristin Bjornsen | Toke of the Town

Remember when 72 percent of Floridians voted to usher in a new era of open access to medical marijuana? That triumphant moment for medical weed was just in November, but for Florida patients this morning, it feels like a lifetime ago.

Late this past Friday, a bill to regulate the new weed industry imploded in Tallahassee. Then medical marijuana’s two biggest champions — über-lawyer John Morgan and United for Care campaign consultant Ben Pollara — viciously turned on each other in a spicy Twitter beef.

Now the fate of medical marijuana access lies in the hands of Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Health, which has already signaled it will enact even more restrictive rules. The whole situation is likely to end up in court, meaning hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be wasted — and patients, in the meantime, still won’t have the easy access to marijuana that voters overwhelmingly backed in November.
Dank Depot

Three days after state lawmakers failed to pass a bill establishing rules for medical marijuana, Miami Springs Vice Mayor Bob Best shook his head at a council meeting Monday night as the city attorney explained it was time to extend the city’s moratorium on dispensaries.

“The purpose of the moratorium was for us to have something ready when that hit, and, apparently, based on the legislative session, nothing’s gonna happen,” Best complained.

Kristin Bjornsen | Toke of the Town

Up in Tallahassee, state legislators are doing everything they can to undermine medical marijuana in Florida. Voters backed medical pot by more than 70 percent in November, and yet lawmakers responded by inviting the same guy who spent millions trying to defeat the measure to help write the new rules.

But despite all those statehouse shenanigans, medical pot dispensaries are finally a reality in Miami-Dade. Miami’s first legal storefront dispensary opened last week near the airport, and across the bay, commissioners will vote Wednesday on where three dispensaries could open in Miami Beach.

“We have been delivering to the Miami area since July, but we’re very excited to have a brick-and-mortar storefront so patients can avoid delivery fees,” says Kim Rivers, a spokesperson for Trulieve, the North Florida-based firm behind Miami’s first dispensary.

For now, the Trulieve dispensary is operating under rules passed between 2014-15, allowing low-THC products for a limited number of ailments and full marijuana products for terminally ill patients. The shop has a variety of marijuana-based medicines — from vaporizers to pills to tinctures — for qualifying patients.

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Florida’s House of Representatives proved today there is nothing its grubby little hands can’t screw up. After more than 72 percent of voters statewide voted to legalize medicinal marijuana for people with “debilitating diseases,” a term that includes cancer, AIDS, and Alzheimer’s, the Florida House today passed its own series of rules regulating the state’s new medical weed industry.

And, this being Florida, the Republican-crafted bill bans smokable weed, creates a state-controlled cartel of legal cannabis farms, and pisses off medicinal marijuana advocates across the Sunshine State. On Tuesday, that terrible bill — HB 1397 — passed the House by a 105-9 margin.

den_011217_veritas_grow_slentz008Scott Lentz

There are 21 million people in Florida, millions of whom will eventually qualify for the medical-grade marijuana that voters approved in November. Very soon, a hell of a lot of weed will be legally sold in the Sunshine State. And so far, lawmakers have given exactly seven companies the right to grow and sell all of that pot.

While Tallahassee might yet hand out a few more licenses by the end of the session, the seven-member pot cartel is already cashing in big-time on its advantage. Yesterday Canadian firm Aphria paid $25 million to buy out Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, an Alachua nursery with one of those licenses. And last year, Massachusetts-based Palliatech bought a minority stake in Miami’s only legal pot grower, Costa Nursery Farms.

As millions of dollars flow into those lucky license-holders, critics say the state is letting a de facto monopoly rake in major cash at the expense of the patients who need that medical pot.

medical-marijuana-florida-amendment-weedShutterstock.com

Florida’s mostly Republican legislators can barely pass basic laws like tax cuts or budget plans without tripping over themselves or spiraling into intra-party screaming matches. They’re so bad at writing their own laws that, as the Miami Herald astutely pointed out last week, gigantic companies like Florida Power & Light have to write laws for them. The current Legislature is a Stygian pit of bad ideas.

So, naturally, Florida voters in 2016 chose to give all of those people drugs.

Last November, Sunshine State residents voted to legalize medical marijuana. This is a good development for folks with debilitating diseases such as cancer, posttraumatic stress disorder, or Alzheimer’s. But it’s not exactly the best-case scenario for many of Florida’s reactionary, conservative lawmakers, who are extremely good at tearing welfare programs apart and not quite as great at writing large, sweeping bills that help people.

Unfortunately, Amendment 2 — the one that legalized medicinal weed last year — gave Florida lawmakers tons of leeway to set their own rules and procedures for the medical-cannabis rollout.

strainsScott Lentz

In November, more than seven in ten Floridians at the polls checked yes on Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. Considering Floridians would probably split 50-50 if asked whether they’d like a free delicious cupcake, that’s an amazing result.

So state legislators shouldn’t be shocked that a solid majority of the state is pretty upset with them today. Four months after that overwhelming vote, Tallahassee looks far away from passing the rules that will let dispensaries open up shop around the state. In fact, the first draft of those rules would make it more difficult than ever to get medical pot.

That’s not at all what voters asked for at the ballot box, and a new poll shows they’re less than pleased with how Tally is handling medical marijuana.

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