FLORIDA: It’s mid-July in Boca Raton, Florida, and the founder of marijuana-consulting agency MedMen is halfway through a speech educating 150 potential ganjapreneurs at a conference called CannaEd. Pacing back and forth in front of an emerald green curtain, Adam Bierman waxes lyrical about the brave new world of investing in medical marijuana. “The biggest players in the state are gonna play this game,” he says, referring to the billionaires who have already expressed interest in the Sunshine State’s prospective legal pot industry. “If you wanna play—they’re starting. They’re starting now.”
According to a new poll from Quinnipiac University, they should be. Medical marijuana is not yet legal in the state, but it will come to a vote in November, and of the 1,251 Florida residents Quinnipiac surveyed, 88 percent said they support its use. That’s good news for money-hungry Florida execs who’ve been eyeing the green rush on the West Coast with envy. But Florida’s medical marijuana law may come with extremely strict provisions, and half-baked dreams of a pot empire won’t be enough to win a license. The race to become one of Florida’s medical marijuana moguls is more a survival of the luckiest than the fittest.
The bill itself, called the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, Amendment 2, proposes to use a fiercely competitive system of “merit-based” criteria for approving licenses. It’s something used by just four of the 23 U.S. states where medical marijuana is legal. In some states, such as Nevada, the system has worked well—ensuring that only the highest-caliber businesses open and operate in the state. But in others, such as Illinois, which plans to offer only 21 licenses statewide, some residents who say they need the drug may not gain access to it.