Morgan tells New Times he supports medical marijuana because it helped relieve his quadriplegic brother's pain. "He'd have violent back spasms," Morgan recalls. "Marijuana was the only thing that worked for him." His late father, who suffered from cancer and emphysema, also used marijuana. "He was tethered to machines and on all these drugs that he had no appetite," Morgan says.

In Colorado, sales of medical marijuana were $328 million last year. In California, $1 billion.

Morgan formed a new political action committee called United for Care and raised close to $5 million through his law firm and family members. The only other major donor is Coral Gables philanthropist and Democratic fundraiser Barbara A. Stiefel, who kicked in $250,000. Morgan became the face of the campaign with radio and television spots all over Florida.

Republicans allege that Morgan hijacked the medical marijuana initiative to help his high-profile employee, Charlie Crist, win back the governorship from Rick Scott.

Illustration by Colin Hayes
Illustration by Colin Hayes

"It's an issue that the Democrats can use to pump up the youth vote," Alex Patton, Gainesville-based Republican political consultant, told Businessweek. Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist backing Scott, called the medical marijuana initiative a "game changer" for the 2014 election.

Legendary flip-flopper Crist signed the Marijuana Growhouse Eradication Act into law when he was the Republican governor. Now, he is running as a Democrat and is all for medical marijuana.

Morgan vehemently denies using the medical marijuana issue to benefit Crist. "If that were the case, I'd just write Charlie a check and go home," Morgan says. "I am not Machiavellian, as some people make me out to be."

If the amendment passes, Morgan insists he'll leave the financial profit to everyone else. "But once it's legal, I'm done. I can't grow Philodendron, much less marijuana, so no — I won't be getting in the business."

Step 2: Go to cannabis "training school" — maybe.

Dropping hundred-dollar bills on medical marijuana classes may seem like a good idea, and some school operators are already making a mint. But David Jones, communications director for the Florida Cannabis Network, a Melbourne-based nonprofit organization, cautions: "Some are trying to be perceived as experts and take advantage of the ill-informed."

Some classes may offer real insight; others could be just puffing smoke. Calkin says his Cannabis Career Institute can teach people how to create a business plan, find business partners, and recruit growers who can cultivate high-quality marijuana. Once students have paid their $299, they can attend as many seminars as they want. "In the marijuana industry, it is all about networking," Calkin says. "Some people won't work with you unless someone they know vouches for you. We introduce you to those people."

Yet it sounds like he has a low bar for who qualifies as an expert: "You can even become a consultant too after attending one seminar. You can start charging other people to teach them."

After serving the longest prison sentence ever (30 years) for a marijuana trafficking offense, Robert Platshorn has become the pitchman for making weed available to senior citizens. He's made a documentary called Should Grandma Smoke Pot? and is a public speaker on the topic.

In late March, Platshorn hosted his own seminar, called "Legal in Florida Medical Marijuana Business Conference." Held in West Palm Beach, Platshorn's event sold out despite the fact he charged $100 more per head than Calkin does. "I brought in the most successful experts from in and out of state to tutor Floridians on the hard facts involved in starting a real cannabis business," Platshorn says.

One of his featured speakers, Jeremy Bufford, claims to be the founder of Florida's first "brick and mortar" medical marijuana education center. A 33-year-old self-described businessman, Bufford incorporated Medical Marijuana Tampa in February, listing a corporate address that leads to a building with a church on the first floor and empty offices in the floors above it. His website shows that he offers medical marijuana courses online for $499, run by two "professors," one of whom was the valedictorian of Oaksterdam University, a grow school in Oakland, California.

Back in March, Bufford told New Times that he was opening a Miami campus this month and that he will operate 15 dispensaries in Florida. "There's no substitute for book learning, and since they're going to be selling some of their product back to us, we have a huge stake in our students' ability to grow pot well," he says. "We issue grades, we have homework, and you've gotta put some effort into this."

Rachel Dyaos, Medical Marijuana Tampa's director of operations, now says the company is no longer going to open a Miami "brick and mortar" school. Instead, it will hold a two-day intensive seminar (sound familiar?) on May 17 and 18 in Miami. However, she could not release the location just yet. "We haven't signed a contract with the banquet hall," she says.

Step 3: Watch out for the feds.

Cannabis universities will probably charge you big bucks to explain what I can tell you for free: Pot is still illegal at the federal level, and that creates a few business problems.

First, banks have been reluctant to open accounts or give loans for marijuana-related businesses, for fears that Uncle Sam will prosecute them for money laundering or aiding drug traffickers.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Denver Colorado -- The largest federal raids ever of Colorado's medical-marijuana industry culminated Monday in the indictment of four people on accusations they funneled and laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars from Colombia to buy a Denver warehouse.

The allegations in the case, detailed for the first time Monday, paint a picture of international money transfers, a marijuana dispensary owner on the lam, high-dollar cultivation facilities, and a car trunk full of cash. If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to decades in prison.

"This is a money-laundering case," Jeffrey Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Colorado, said after a court hearing Monday.

Named in the indictment are brothers Luis and Gerardo Uribe, 28 and 33, respectively; attorney David Furtado, 48; and Colombian citizen Hector Diaz, 49. Both Uribes and Furtado were among the owners of the more than a dozen medical-marijuana businesses that Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

### Colorado Dispensary Operators Indicted by Feds ###

On Nov. 21, federal agents executed search warrants on 14 businesses — including dispensaries and grow facilities — and two homes, carting away plants and seizing records. A search warrant identified 10 men as "target subjects" connected to the operation.

Denver attorney Sean McAllister said Friday his client, Gerardo Uribe, was indicted.