Monday, June 5, 2017
Would-be marijuana entrepreneurs learn the hemp ropes
By Dan Sweeney
During a gold rush, sell shovels.
The green rush is on in Florida as would-be entrepreneurs look to cash in on the new medical marijuana industry, even though regulations are still being formulated by the state.
For every would-be grower, there is an army selling cannabis oil delivery gadgets, grow lights, hemp products, hydroponic systems and all manner of other equipment. Many of them will be in the exhibitor hall at the Southeast Cannabis Conference and Expo, which takes place June 9 to 11 at the Broward County Convention Center.
It is not the first such conference to hit South Florida, but it may be the biggest yet, with a 100-booth exhibitor hall, speakers such as former talk show host Montel Williams and former Miami Dolphin Ricky Williams, and on-site training by Clover Leaf University, the first cannabis-centric educational institution licensed by the state of Colorado.
“Where do all the people go to talk among themselves about what the industry should look like and what they should do next?” said Demitri Downing, the event organizer. “I’m hoping we educate as many people as possible so we can get them up there to talk to the executive branch and their legislators and tell them not to deprive people of their opportunity to get involved.’’
The Florida Legislature could set rules for the state’s nascent medical marijuana industry in a special session June 7 to 9, just days before the convention takes place. The issue is not yet on the budget-focused agenda but could be added.
Right now, there are seven licensed growers in the state and no rules for adding more, a severe impediment for anyone with dreams of cannabis cultivation in the Sunshine State.
“It’s no different than if there’s only two cable companies,” Downing said. “This is no longer a marijuana question. This is an economic question.”
This is Downing’s first foray into Florida, but his company has previously produced marijuana confabs in Texas and Arizona, where Downing is based.
A former prosecutor for Native American lands within Arizona, Downing seems an unlikely hype man for the marijuana industry.
“I’ve put people in jail for consumption, possession and transportation,” he said. “That’s just something that I was 180 degrees absolutely wrong about.”
He changed his tune after medical marijuana was legalized in Arizona. That state currently has 131 licensed growers, and Downing said the larger number allows for a higher quality product and that “competition is driving the price of medicine down in Arizona, flat out.”
The conference, which costs $50 to $125 a person, begins with a seven-hour workshop on breaking into the marijuana industry by Clover Leaf University, plus a separate course on investing in the industry by Viridian Capital Advisors.
That evening features pro-medical marijuana speeches by former football players, including Williams, former New York Jet Marvin Washington, former New Orleans Saint Boo Williams and former Colorado State University running back Treyous Jarrells, who now has a license to grow medical marijuana in Colorado.
Shorter classes and speaker sessions will take place over the next two days.