Proponents of medical marijuana in Florida prevailed the second time around, with 71 percent of voters endorsing the state’s measure.
The Associated Press reported passage of Amendment 2 with 66 percent of precincts reporting. Florida required a super-majority vote of 60 percent for the constitutional amendment.
Waiting on the other side of the finish line is an eager business community, ready to capitalize on the substance that has ushered in positive economic impact to states such as California, Colorado and Washington. (Twenty-five states and Washington D.C. currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form.)
Howard Wander has witnessed the enthusiasm firsthand. A partner of Kelley Kronenberg’s West Palm Beach office, Wander welcomed dozens of South Florida business leaders to the law firm’s first ever medical marijuana business networking group Nov. 2.
“There were contractors who build out commercial spaces, to marketing companies, data companies, doctors, private equity firms … It’s a multibillion-dollar industry,” said Wander, who heads Kelley Kronenberg’s regulated substances practice group. “These aren’t potheads. These are business people with extreme ability to contribute money and make money.”
A similar medical marijuana measure failed to capture the required 60 percent endorsement from voters two years ago. But this year’s ballot measure was spruced up and clarifications of eligible patients introduced. Amendment 2, part two, outlines requirements for parental consent for the use of medical marijuana by minors and better defines what illnesses qualify as “debilitating.” They include cancer, epilepsy, epilepsy-like conditions and terminal diseases.
New language expanded the potential user base of medicinal marijuana to 800,000 Floridians from about 220,000, according to an economic impact report reviewed by Miami-Dade County commissioners in September.
Given that an estimated 20 million people live in Florida, Amendment 2 does not open floodgates. But the introduction economic impact of medical cannabis is expected to be sizable nonetheless.
Estimates outlined by the Miami-Dade County Commission report project annual medical cannabis sales in the Southern Region — made up by Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe and Martin counties — to reach nearly $300 million. Annual sales could generate as much as $124.5 million in Miami-Dade County alone.
Some experts, such as Jeff Sharkey, managing partner of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, peg an even greater value to the industry, expecting as much as $4 billion to circulate through the state.
“This could be huge for small business — entrepreneurs trying to do something that’s professional, quality-controlled, affordable and meets patients’ needs,” Sharkey said.
South Florida is especially poised to benefit from the medical cannabis market as the illnesses covered under the amendment disproportionately affect older populations, present in large numbers in the tri-county area.
The trickle-down effect would then be a boon for various industries, including real estate — because of new clinics and marijuana dispensaries setting up shop — and health care, as demand for consultations and prescriptions roll in. As many as 55 establishments statewide have already applied for authorization to process and dispense marijuana.
Miami-based Modern Health Concepts got the green light from the Florida Department of Health to sell marijuana of both the medical and low-THC variety. The latter contains just trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive substance in marijuana that, in concentrated amounts, can give users a high. The business is set to open multiple retail locations throughout the tri-county region in 2017.
“We are pleased that by using the most medically precise and technologically advanced productions techniques, Modern Health Concepts is ready to provide qualified patients in Florida with the relief they need from a source they can trust,” said Modern Health Concepts CEO Richard Young.