Few Tampa Bay nurseries qualified to grow medical marijuana - WFLA News Channel 8

Few Tampa Bay nurseries qualified to grow medical marijuana

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The Florida legislature passed a bill at the end of the session that approves the use of medical marijuana. Low THC pot would be used to treat epilepsy and cancer. It's a strain known as Charlotte's Web.

But, the bill puts restrictions on the production of the plant. The first restriction is that only growers that have been doing business in Florida for 30 continuous years may apply to grow medical marijuana.  According to the Department of Agriculture, this narrows the list to 21 nurseries and growers in the state. There are only five in the Bay Area that meet the qualification.

The owner of Riverview Flower Farms, Rick Brown, is eligible to apply.  His preliminary estimate is it would take  $10 million dollars to go into the medical marijuana business.

"We would have to have a structure that's wind resistant because of all the storms here and something to exclude all insects because you can't spray anything on marijuana plants. It's something you take into your body," said Brown.

The legislature has other conditions: growers must also post a $5 million bond, be able to secure the premises, and all owners and managers must submit to fingerprinting and a level 2 background check.

"It's not an easy proposition. The grower must have the business experience, the technical capability, and financial stability. However, I'm confident some growers will step forward in the state, " said Ben Bolusky, CEO of The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.

There are other concerns. Some growers may be worried about the continuing federal ban on the substance and other growers may have ethical issues.

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