Two New Mosquito Species Land in Florida

One month after being declared Zika-free by the Center for Disease Control, the state of Florida has been recognized as the home of two new mosquito species.

Two tropical disease-carrying mosquitoes have been found in the Florida Everglades; this is the first time they have ever been on the United States mainland. The new arrivals are from the Caribbean and Latin America. This brings the total up to nine new mosquito species found in Florida over the past decade.

An entomologist from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is responsible for the latest discovery.

“These two species are known to transmit pathogens that affect human and animal health,” said Nathan Burkett-Cadena, assistant professor of entomology at UF.

Burkett-Cadena predicts that the mosquitoes will likely spread throughout Florida and to neighboring states because of their widespread larval habitat. The research to support these findings is being published in the Journal of Medical Entomology and the Journal Acta Tropica.

After the December 2016 “Zika-free” declaration, public health officials made it clear that even though virus is gone, it could make a reappearance at a later date. At this time, officials say it’s too early to be alarmed by the new discoveries, despite the possibility of new mosquito-borne viruses.

When Will Marijuana Be Legal In Florida? Our State’s Medical Dispensary Rules Make Getting Treatment Difficult

Patients in Florida suffering from a variety of ailments will technically be eligible to use legal medical marijuana as a form of treatment on Tuesday. However, the state still has months to go before dispensary rules and regulations must be officially implemented, which could potentially leave patients without access to medical cannabis for quite some time.

On Election Day, 71 percent of voters approved Florida’s Amendment 2, a measure legalizing medical pot for people diagnosed with HIV, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, PTSD, ALS and a slew of other illnesses under a doctor’s prescription.

The state formerly passed legislation allowing low THC dosages of non-smokeable medical marijuana in 2014, but Florida’s Department of Health still has six months to update current dispensing rules to satisfy the new laws along with another nine months the department has to implement the new regulations. Only seven dispensaries are authorized to provide marijuana across the state under the former law, and only five weed nurseries are licensed to grow the plant in the state so far, so many Floridians could be without a place to purchase their legal medical marijuana until the end of 2017 or even 2018.

Along with the Department of Health dragging their feet to implement a new dispensing structure, local cities and counties throughout Florida are still fighting to keep dispensaries from popping up in their communities. Pasco and Manatee Counties have both requested bans on the drug in their communities, according to Sunshine State News, while Panama City Beach has suggested putting an all-out ban on growing, cultivation and dispensing for at least eight months while city and county officials study the plant and watch how it affects communities in other areas of Florida. Hillsborough County has already instituted a ban on medical marijuana, which will be in place until April.

“I suggest that we consider a moratorium on this until (the) state settles down on what their (laws) will be and the county does the same so we don’t do something and have to undo it three or four times,” Panama City Beach Councilman John Reichard said during a City Council meeting in early December.

Florida Airbnb Housing Doubles Again in 2016

The number of visitors to Florida choosing to stay in private homes through the Airbnb home-sharing app continues to explode and has topped 1.5 million for the 2016 year, the company announced Tuesday.

With Florida attracting more than 100 million visitors a year Airbnb still represents a tiny fraction of the market. But it now has captured more than 1 percent of Florida’s visitors, with survey evidence that some of those visitors wouldn’t have come otherwise. And the company discusses plenty of growth potential.

Airbnb reported that in 2015 its client homes housed about 753,000 people in the Sunshine State, and the year before it was 303,000.

This year it’s 1.5 million visitors. Airbnb also reported it’s up to 32,000 host homes, up 74 percent since last year.

And the company said that brought in $273 million in rent for those operators, supplemental income for the vast majority of them.

The continuing growth has drawn both praise from Gov. Rick Scott and warnings from a group called AirbnbWATCH, which raises concerns about the largely unregulated [and to date mostly still untaxed] new lodging option.

“It is great news that Airbnb and the home sharing community are helping more families experience the Sunshine State,” Scott stated in a news release issued by the company. “During challenging times in our state this year, Airbnb offered emergency accommodations to many families in need following the Orlando terrorist attack and Hurricane Matthew. We truly appreciate when businesses like Airbnb help Floridians in need.

The vast majority of Airbnb service still is in South Florida, with Miami-Dade and Broward counties accounting for more than half of the business. The company has not yet negotiated systematic tax collection systems with either of those counties, so their tax revenues from Airbnb homes is hit-and-miss, based on what the counties and operators know about each other and local and Florida laws.

Elsewhere, however, Airbnb has set up tax collection systems in 31 counties and reported that it remitted more than $20 million statewide so far this year, with more receipts pending. The taxes paid so far include $900,000 in Pinellas, $800,000 in Orange, $500,000 in Brevard  and $300,000 in Lee counties.

Central Florida market continues to increase rapidly. Both Orange and Osceola counties saw 140 percent increases in business in 2016. The Kissimmee Airbnb market took in 154,000 visitors, and the Orlando market took in 114,000.

The company conducted a survey of guests in Miami and found 36 percent said they probably would not have come without the service, and others stated that they were able to stay longer. The company also touted the spinoff economic boom to tourist attractions, restaurants and shops, particularly in neighborhoods such as Miami’s Little Havana that otherwise have little or no tourist lodging.

“Home sharing is an economic driver to cities and neighborhoods in Florida that typically get overlooked due to the lack of hotels,” Airbnb Florida Policy Director Tom Martinelli stated in the release. “Meanwhile, the infusion of new revenue to state and county coffers is helping local policymakers fund critical local services.”

Miami-Dade saw $113 million in Airbnb business in 2016; followed by Broward, $28 million; Osceola, $18.3 million; Orange, $14.3 million; Pinellas County, $12.3 million; Palm Beach County, $9.5 million; Monroe County, $8.5 million; Lee, $6.7 million, Sarasota County, $6.7 million; and Hillsborough County, $5.1 million. Also, 13 other Florida counties also topped $1 million in Airbnb business, according to the company.

Medical Marijuana in Florida Could Top $1B In Three Years

Florida is on track to log more than $1 billion in medical marijuana sales by 2019, according to an industry report released Tuesday.

The estimates are good news for Florida’s budding medical cannabis industry, fresh off a major ballot box win last month.

By 2020, the report predicts, Florida will be the second-largest medical marijuana market in the country, following only California. Marijuana industry analysts New Frontier Data and Arcview Market Research compiled the estimates based on data from governments, businesses and activists.

Floridians approved Amendment 2 with 71 percent of the vote in last month’s election. Once it goes into effect, doctors will be able to recommend marijuana as a treatment for cancer, HIV/AIDS and other debilitating conditions.

New Frontier and Arcview assume sales will begin next year. They predict $10 million in marijuana sales in 2017, though the earliest the drug could be available to an expanded group of patients is late in the year.

From there, revenues from the market would only grow, gaining steam from national upward trends in the marijuana industry and the state’s steady population growth.

Earlier estimates from the groups’ previous reports pegged the Florida market at just slightly below these new measures, though the report’s authors say they used new, better data and that old and new projections “cannot be compared.”

But a word of caution: It’s impossible to know just how the rules governing medical marijuana in Florida will look until the state Legislature and Department of Health have their say.

“The full regulatory structure and key program details remain to be determined,” the report says, “and the market could take a few different directions depending on the actions of the Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Health.”

This 14-Foot Python Was Caught in Florida With 3 Deer In Its Belly

Normally, what a snake eats for breakfast isn’t worth a headline. But this is no normal snake. And this was no normal meal.

The Burmese python is a massive snake native to Southeast Asia that arrived in South Florida in the 1980s, possibly released into the wild by careless pet owners. There are now as many as 300,000 of these invasive creatures slithering through the state, and they’ve been known to eat alligators, bobcats, rabbits, and birds.

Now scientists have discovered that Burmese pythons — which can reach 18 feet in length and swallow a bobcat whole — are even more ravenous than they realized. In a new paper in Bioinvasions Records, a team of researchers describe slitting open the intestine of a dead 14-foot python and finding the remains of three different white-tailed deer. The snake appears to have gobbled them up, an adult and two fawns, in just 90 days.

The implications are disturbing. “If this was just one snake that ate three deer in isolation, that’d be one thing” says Scott Boback, a biologist at Dickinson College and lead author of the study. But the incident comes alongside growing evidence that the Burmese pythons are ravaging native wildlife in South Florida’s Everglades. “When you put that all together, you’ve got to say, okay, something serious is going on here.”

There’s growing evidence that Burmese pythons are devastating the Everglades

snake-handler

Something disturbing is definitely happening in Everglades National Park, South Florida’s most famous natural wonder. In a 2012 study, scientists showed that sightings of raccoons, opossums, bobcats, rabbits, foxes, and other mammals in the region have declined more than 80 percent since the mid-1990s.

These observed declines were strongly correlated with the Burmese python’s known habitat, and the researchers couldn’t find any other plausible explanations for the mammals’ disappearance. Hunting, for instance, has long been banned in the Everglades park.

Of course, correlation isn’t causation. But in 2015, a team led by Bob McCleery of the University of Florida conducted a follow-up experiment. The researchers took 100 marsh rabbits (which have seen a precipitous decline), tagged them with radio collars, and released some of the rabbits into two sites where pythons were known to exist and the rest into a region where there were no snakes. Lo and behold, the rabbit populations crashed in the python regions — with three-quarters of them eaten by the snakes.

“All these studies are putting together a story that we just can’t ignore anymore,” says Boback.

This latest discovery adds to that picture. There have been isolated reports of pythons consuming deer before. And that 2012 study suggested that white-tailed deer populations have fallen 94 percent in Everglades National Park since pythons became established. Now, for the first time, a python has been found eating multiple deer in a short time period.

I asked Boback if he knew how the python had managed to catch and eat three deer. “This has been keeping me up at night,” he says. “It’s possible that the deer were all snoozing. But it also could have been an ambush.”

It’s thought that pythons use their olfactory senses to figure out where mammals tend to travel, and then lie in wait for one to pass. “It drives me crazy to think how a single snake was able to hide,” says Boback, “so that not just one deer but three deer walked within a meter of it — and then how it was able to strike from a low position … or grab a leg. … It’s fascinating to figure out.”

However it happened, the notion that pythons may be gobbling up lots and lots of white-tailed deer is troubling. For one, deer are a major revenue source in South Florida, thanks to the sale of hunting licenses. There are also ecological implications — the elimination of deer could rearrange the region’s ecosystem in unpredictable ways.

But what’s even more worrisome, says Boback, is that it suggests there’s little limit to what pythons can devour. “They’re eating pretty much every vertebrate in the Everglades,” he says. “They’re basically taking all that diverse biomass and replacing it with python biomass. And we’ve seen this story before.”

One huge worry is that the Everglades will see a repeat of what happened in Guam

The nightmare scenario is what happened on the island of Guam. During World War II, heavy ship traffic brought the non-native brown tree snake to the island. There had never been a snake species on that island before, and the local birds had no idea how to evade it. In the decades since, 12 native bird species have gone extinct.

“That really shows how we’ve underestimated these animals in the past,” Boback says. “It took literally 20 years for scientists to admit that the brown tree snake was established and was causing population declines of these birds.”

Eventually, officials did figure out how to deal with the brown tree snake in Guam. They devised clever traps, baited with live mice, that the snakes could squirm into but couldn’t easily escape. More recently, people have injected dead mice with acetaminophen (Tylenol) — which is deadly to snakes — and fired the mice out of a helicopter into trees to bait and kill the snakes. (Yes, really.) Once an area is cleared of snakes, they can reintroduce bird species.

The problem is that these strategies won’t work easily in the Everglades. For one, the region has all sorts of other native snakes besides the python that are already endangered — it’s tough to devise a trap that only kills pythons without wiping out a lot of other wildlife.

So at the moment, South Florida is struggling to figure out how to respond. The state has held hunting contests in some years to raise awareness, but people usually manage to kill a few dozen snakes or so — barely a dent in the population. Meanwhile, areas at the edge of the python’s habitat like the Florida Keys have had some success in fending off invasions with rapid response teams: Locals are encouraged to report python sightings, and a team immediately comes in to take care of it.

The biggest challenge, however, is that Everglades National Park is so vast, stretching hundreds of miles across, and the pythons can easily hide in the park’s endless sea of grass. The snakes are rarely ever spotted unless they happen to cross over roads. “Roads are really the only place we can reliably detect them,” says Boback.

No one’s quite sure where these Burmese pythons are going next

What we do know is that the pythons are extraordinarily efficient predators. Boback notes that the pythons convert about 80 percent of the food they consume into biomass — that is, into either growing bigger or producing babies. For mammals, by contrast, that efficiency is usually around 20 percent. That simple formula helps explain why pythons will continue to dominate.

They’re also incredibly well-suited to the warm climate of South Florida. And one big question is whether they might eventually travel north of Lake Okeechobee, which sits in the middle of the state, as the planet warms.

This turns out to be incredibly contentious. Some early studies looked at climate conditions in the snake’s current habitat, projected how climates in other states might change with global warming, and suggested that Burmese pythons could eventually establish themselves as far north as New Jersey. Other studies argued that these early studies missed important factors — like sharp swings in weather that could limit their range. (Among herpetologists who study the python, Boback says, this debate can quickly degenerate into angry shouting at conferences.)

So there’s a lot more to figure out here: how the snakes reproduce, where they’re likely to go next, and, most importantly, how to stop them.

“Mostly,” says Boback, “I think we need to start taking these snakes more seriously. We tend to be biased as humans — our imagination only takes us so far as to what these snakes can do. And if we continue to underestimate them, that will get us in trouble.”

Florida Citrus May Be Near A Comeback

In Florida, oranges are so important that they’re on the state’s license plates. But after 11 years of fighting a debilitating disease, Florida’s citrus industry is in a sad state. The disease, called citrus greening, is caused by a bacterium that constricts a tree’s vascular system, shriveling fruit and eventually killing the tree. The bacterium is spread by a tiny insect called a psyllid.

Florida’s signature orange crop is now less than a third of what it was 20 years ago because of this disease. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture says this year’s orange crop is expected to be the smallest in more than 50 years.

But, at Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center, researchers are now optimistic they’ll win the battle to save Florida oranges, thanks in part to recent advances in developing tougher varieties of citrus.

For nearly a century, orange and grapefruit growers have planted varieties developed at the Center at Lake Alfred in central Florida. It’s a 600 acre campus that’s part of the University of Florida, where hundreds of staffers are focused on finding a cure for citrus greening.

Fred Gmitter, a horticulture scientist, has worked for 30 years developing new varieties for citrus farmers. He walks me through one of the Center’s research groves where many trees are clearly diseased — with bare branches, stunted growth, and yellowing leaves.

“But look up ahead there on the right,” Gmitter says. He points to one tree that stands out. Unlike the others, it’s full of fruit and looks healthy. He says, “Our growers wanted to call this variety ‘Bingo.’ ”

It’s a small mandarin orange variety, seedless and easy-to-peel, that was developed over years using painstaking conventional breeding

Florida growers think the new variety will help them compete for market share with clementines from California and Spain. Gmitter picks an orange from the tree. “I wish the people … could smell this as I’m peeling it,” he says. It’s also delicious — sweet, tart, tender and from a tree that after nine years, is still healthy despite a citrus greening infection.

Florida growers are excited about this new variety. Gmitter and his colleagues have received orders for some 150,000-thousand trees. Many are already in the ground. It’s one of a few varieties of greening-tolerant citrus that are beginning to provide short-term answers for growers while scientists look for a long-term solution.

Michael Rogers, the director at Lake Alfred, says progress in research and new varieties like Bingo has sparked optimism in an industry that seemed doomed otherwise.

“Back in 2005, when the disease first showed up in Florida, we all said … ‘this is a death sentence. In ten years, the industry will be gone,’ ” he says. “Well, we’re not gone. We’re going to hang on and we’re going to keep going. And it’s because of the small increments we’ve made in the short-term research.”

One short term solution that’s working is physically protecting the plants from the disease vector.

Arnold Schumann takes me into a large screened enclosure that’s filled with row upon row of orange and grapefruit trees growing in pots, with water and nutrients delivered to the plants through an elaborate system of pipes. The trees in this one acre grove are two years old and already producing fruit. Most importantly, they’re all healthy.

Schumann says the screened enclosure has shown growers a simple and effective way to protect citrus trees from greening. “It’s been a hundred percent successful so far of excluding the psyllid and the disease,” he says. “We expect it to be a long-term protection system that works.”

A few growers, like Ed Pines at E.I.P Citrus in Lake Wales, are already trying it. At his facility, he unlocks the door to one of his massive screened greenhouses. We’re immediately buffeted by fans. They’re part of a system that makes sure bugs, like the disease carrying psyllids don’t get in. Inside, the sun filters through the enclosure’s fine mesh screens. There are ten acres of mandarin oranges here.

The trees have been growing for just a few months, but Pines expects to begin producing fruit in the second year. Because it requires a big capital investment, growing under screens is an option just for farmers who raise fruit that’s sold fresh in supermarkets and farm stands. That leaves out the majority of Florida growers whose crop goes to orange juice. But even some juice orange growers in Florida are now getting into the fresh fruit market because of the new solutions and disease-tolerant varieties.

Pines says for him, the new developments have brought back the joy of raising Florida oranges and grapefruit. In the old days he says, “For me, going to the grove, I don’t want to say [it was] therapy, but it wasn’t even work.” Citrus greening changed all that. Every time he went to the grove, he says, he would come back with a headache or a stomach ache, and he would stay up all night.

For growers, some of the best news in the battle against citrus greening is coming, not from the groves, but from research labs. University of Florida researchers are using cutting edge technology to develop citrus varieties resistant to the disease.

Fred Gmitter says his colleagues are making progress with the gene editing system, CRISPR, which allows scientists to tinker with targeted pieces of DNA. Right now, he and others are working to identify a single gene or a group of genes on the citrus genome that they can manipulate to make trees resistant to greening.

Nian Wang, a University of Florida researcher, has already used CRISPR technology to produce plants resistant to another citrus disease. In his lab at Lake Alfred, he shows me a tray of orange seedlings germinated last year. “This is basically a genome-modified plant,” he says “written against Canker.” It’s another disease that brought big headaches to citrus growers, but it’s effects paled in comparison to the devastation caused by greening. Wang is now working on greening. Many in the industry are hopeful that a long-term answer to the disease may now be just a few years away.

In the meantime, in central and South Florida, the orange harvest is already coming in. “Right now, we’re running red grapefruit, navel oranges, Hamlin oranges, fall glow tangerines, sunburst tangerines,” says Steven Callaham, at the packing house of Dundee Citrus Growers Association in Lake Hamilton.

Dundee is one of Florida’s oldest grower cooperatives, in business since 1924. With greening, the co-op has lost growers. Packing houses and juice plants have closed as the size of Florida’s crop dropped by two-thirds. But after years of shrinking crops and growing despair, Callaham says the new developments have returned hope to the citrus industry. “Growers are replanting,” he says. “The industry will survive. And we’ll be here.”

Florida Legislation Delays The Medical Marijuana Amendment

Thanks to nearly 75% of people in the state of #Florida voting ‘yes’ to medical marijuana, legislators are now stumped with ideas to try and make it accessible throughout the state. Due to the concerns of abuse and commercialization of medical marijuana, the lawmakers have delayed the bill for six months and the amendment would not be approved or added to the Florida Constitution until late 2017 or not until early 2018.

Amendment 2 summary

Amendment 2 states that only licensed caregivers and doctors within the state of Florida would allow the prescription and usage of the plants. Doctors can apply for a license and certification course on prescribing medical marijuana to their patients. The same notion also applies to caregivers who are taking care of patients who are considered terminally ill or have a disease with no known cure. As more and more people sign up, the law part becomes the staple issue in how Florida would govern the sales of medical marijuana. The legal law in other states regarding these medical shops says that people over the age of twenty-one or older can buy these drugs. However, that does also pose a concern with people who can walk into a medical marijuana shop and purchase the drug without a prescription. The legislators suggested that they have a licensed medical marijuana card with the given condition that the consumer was diagnosed with to avoid abuse or people copying the identification in that person’s name to obtain the drug.

So far, there are no shops installed or opened yet in Florida, but there are more people interested in growing the plants and becoming part of the distribution business.

Three options available

Legislators are given a deadline of July in the state of Florida to come up with how to control and regulate the drug being distributed and grown within the state. So far they have come up with three variables on regulating medical marijuana. Here are the options:

  • Option 1: Create a massive #cannabis program with a different set of laws and a limited number of licenses available throughout Florida.
  • Option 2: Do not expand or allow expansion into a large cannabis program and only allow those six nurseries which have been legalized in Florida to distribute and grow their products.
  • Option 3: Have two different cannabis programs in Florida and provide no limitation on nurseries and licenses for those wanting to take part in the legalization of medical cannabis.

If we can come up with something that allows expansion and growth, hopefully, more and more people could find a way to generate money for the economy. Since Amendment 2 passed, there may be an opportunity for those with no money to find a way to be part of the growing cannabis business. #MedicalMarijuana

Florida Legalizes Medical Marijuana, So What Happens Next?

As most of you know by now, Florida voters yesterday passed the “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions” ballot measure commonly known as Amendment 2. As a Florida-licensed attorney, I want to give a big congrats to my home state for finally saying yes to comprehensive medical marijuana program that should (hopefully) expand the monopoly on MMJ currently held by the Charlotte’s Web nurseries and provide more and better access to a variety medical cannabis for patients.

Under the ballot measure, the Department of Health has no more than six months from the law’s effective date to create regulations for registering Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs). Under Florida’s Constitution, the ballot measure should take effect “on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January following the election unless otherwise specified by the amendment.” Amendment 2 has no specific effective dates for its various provisions, so this should mean we will be seeing a complete set of MMTC rules by June 2017 (assuming there are no legal challenges to these rules, but it’s Florida so there will be). An overview of the initial Department of Health Charlotte’s Web rules can be found here.

Leading up to this vote, Floridians have been calling our cannabis lawyers asking what they can do now to get ready for Department of Health MMTC registration in the future. Given the timeline above, my response was and is, “a lot actually.” I tell them that they can and should be doing the following, starting now:

  • Read the initiative and then read it again. The initiative is everything at this point and it’s imperative all prospective Florida MMJ operators read and thoroughly understand it because it provides the baselines for what’s going to be allowed for patients, physicians, and operators.
  • Figure out where you might want to operate and learn about the local government there.  The initiative is silent regarding whether local governments will be able to opt of the new law should it pass, which, in most states, has meant local governments are free to ban if they so wish. Some Florida cities have already prepared themselves for changing state marijuana laws by enacting municipal zoning and permitting laws. Other Florida cities and counties are (and will remain) opposed to MMJ businesses. Instead of spending dollars and time planning for a marijuana business in a Florida city that will never allow one, you should instead get a handle on friendly versus non-friendly local governments. As for those local governments without a clear idea on what to do about cannabis, this is your chance to step up and help educate the local authorities about what their local industry should look like. Our cannabis lawyers have done this in countless cities and counties in multiple states and believe me when I tell you that this can profoundly impact which way a city or county will go on cannabis commerce. I cannot stress enough the importance of your understanding the local situation where you will be locating.
  • Study other state regulatory models, including the super strict ones. You can learn a lot about what to expect from Florida by looking at other states’ regulatory models. Look at states like New York, Illinois, Nevada, and Minnesota, all of which have fairly limited and heavily controlled MMJ regimes. If Florida’s 2014 Charlotte’s Web law tells us anything (and it does), Florida’s new medical cannabis regime is going to be a lot more like these states than, let’s say, California, where (until the implementation of the MCRSA) the “cannabis friendly doctor is always in.” Our cannabis licensing lawyers area constantly comparing laws in the older states to get a better feel for what is likely to go down in the newer states. If State A interprets X provision a certain way, there is a good chance State B will do the same.
  • Review the Florida corporate structures available and figure out now which makes sense for you. MMTCs will be the “entities” that cultivate, process, and dispense cannabis to qualified patients. However, since MMTCs aren’t defined in the initiative beyond the term “entities,” that means we could be looking at either non-profits or for-profit entities. This means you should learn about the various corporate structures available to you, how they operate, and what you’ll need when you’re ready to file for your entity.
  • Start figuring out your budget and pace yourself. In anticipation of a fee-laden, probably very expensive application process for registering an MMTC, you need to start thinking now about your budget and from where you are going to get your funding. In all of the states in which our cannabis business lawyers have operated, one thing always holds true: those with secure funding before the application process starts have always had a huge advantage in competing for a cannabis business license over those still patching together their funding when the application window opens. You should plan for more than just start-up costs such as inventory, employees, operational costs, etc. You should also have a good idea of the funding you will need for the application process itself, which will require legal oversight, expert advisory input, contracting with architects for floor plans, and all sorts of other expert assistance. And again, speaking from experience, those with the best and most experienced team in place are the ones that get the licenses. And speaking just for lawyers, the best lawyers will charge a lot but not take on many clients. All of this means that you must budget accordingly and pace yourself. Just because the initiative mandates Florida’s Department of Health come up with all of the MMJ rules within six months of the effective date of the law doesn’t mean it will actually issue licenses or register MMTCs by that time. It’s Florida, people, and, that means there will likely be a whole host of lawsuits to delay this process. Get your budget in sufficient shape to weather these inevitable delays.
  • Choose your partners wisely. Consultants and so-called cannabis experts are a dime a dozen. Take your time in choosing who you will be using to help you navigate what is sure to be a complicated application process. Ask lots of questions, especially about whether they will require you to give them equity in your company and whether their relationship with you will be exclusive. For more on why this choice can be so important, check out Buyer Beware: Pot Colleges and Canna Consultants.
  • Choose your legal counsel wisely. Lawyers claiming to be marijuana business attorneys are also a dime a dozen and you need to proceed with caution in choosing your legal counsel as well. Make sure you choose a law firm with extensive experience in navigating robustly regulated application processes, the more states the better. Make sure your law firm also has corporate lawyers experienced in forming cannabis businesses and in dealing with state cannabis laws and regulations. Make sure to get clear on whether your law firm will be representing just you in seeking a particular license, or ten of your potential competitors as well. Make sure your law firm also has experience with commercial leaseholds for the cannabis industry. For why this matters, read Marijuana Commercial Leases: This Industry Is Different, You Know. And, given the wild west nature of this industry, no matter how regulated it is by a given state, make double-sure your attorney is an ethical one. And to put it bluntly, ethical lawyers do not take equity in cannabis businesses; they just don’t.
  • Don’t forget about federal illegality and get comfortable now with what that means. Those of us with years of experience in the state-regulated marijuana industry know all too well how the federal illegality of marijuana makes day to day business difficult and you need to start educating yourself on this as well. It’s not too early for you to start figuring out how you will deal with the difficulties of opening a bank account due to federal anti-money laundering laws or protecting your trade name and your brands without being able to register trademarks with the USPTO. It also makes sense to start navigating how you can best mitigate against federal income tax laws that prohibit all normal business deductions  under IRC 280e, and that bankruptcy isn’t a likely option in the event of failure. And, finally, how will you advertise your new cannabis business when Google and most major social media platforms will not allow you to do so?

Florida has legalized. Now get cracking.

Here’s Our Second Shot At Legalizing Florida Medical Marijuana

Florida voters have a second chance to approve a state amendment legalizing medical marijuana for ailments including glaucoma, AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder, after narrowly rejecting a similar measure two years ago.

The legislature in the meantime has allowed limited use of non-smoked, low-THC pot for patients with cancer or ailments that cause chronic seizures or severe spasms, and two dispensaries have opened in the state with home deliveries allowed statewide. Delays in fully implementing the law have added to arguments in favor of legalizing medical marijuana under the state constitution.

Florida would become the 26th state along with the District of Columbia to legalize the marijuana plant for medical use. Florida is one of 16 states where only part of the marijuana plant is used.

Opponents of the measure in 2014, which failed to garner the required 60 percent of the vote, had expressed concerns that Florida would be overrun with pot shops and that children wouldn’t be adequately protected from potential bad effects of the drug.

Proponents say loopholes have been closed this time, including requiring parental written consent for underage patients and that caregivers register with the state Health Department.

This year’s Amendment 2 would broaden access for diseases with symptoms other than seizures or spasms. The measure lists 10 illnesses: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. It also allows doctors to prescribe pot for any other similar kind of ailment.

The department will regulate how medical marijuana can be distributed along with mandating identification cards for caregivers and patients. Many rules and regulations — from how the marijuana is grown to regulations on how it can be transported for in-home delivery — already have been passed by the legislature under laws for limited use of marijuana. Those regulations also will apply to the constitutional amendment.

Marijuana Businesses Across The Nation Fund Pro-Medical Marijuana Bid in Florida

Out-of-state-donors, including some prominent marijuana businesses, have pumped money into the campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, underscoring the high-stakes fight in that state.

Of the three states – Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota – that could legalize medical marijuana on Tuesday, Florida is by far the largest market and offers out-of-state cannabis businesses potentially lucrative opportunities.

Denver-based social media company MassRoots, Denver edibles firm Allied Concessions Group and Washington State-based Privateer Holdings have all contributed funds to United for Care, the political committee supporting Florida’s medical cannabis campaign, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

In total, around $1 million has been donated to United for Care, some of that coming from businesses and activists in Washington D.C., New York and Colorado.

Amendment 2 would create a market for medical marijuana, allowing doctors to prescribe it for AIDS and cancer patients, among others.

Much of the funding behind opposition to Amendment 2 has come from anti-marijuana crusader Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has kicked in $1.5 million to the cause, according to the Tampa Bay Times.