Other nonprofits, like Miami-based Florida Health Initiative, have launched websites to find volunteers and pick up donations. Cofounder Mario Verde says his group is creating campaign literature and lobbying in Tallahassee. "People are going to get their marijuana any way they can," Verde says. "That is the reality of it. When it is legal, at least you know what growers are putting in it."

Step 8: Line up your own money, your family's money, your friends' money — and probably some loan shark money too.

On a chilly February evening in the Mile High City, John Knapp unlocks the door to a red-brick, 90,000-square-foot warehouse. A security camera monitors his movements. The dank, earthy aroma of marijuana plants growing in a controlled environment greets visitors with the subtlety of a six-foot-bong hit. The 28-year-old owner of Good Meds, a 3-year-old company that operates dispensaries in Boulder and Denver, gives a tour of his facility. He walks through a door with a sign warning that the grow room's atmosphere is "oxygen deficient."

There's certainly a lot of photosynthesis going on. An array of LED growing lights bathes the room in a dusty golden hue, nurturing a compact forest of marijuana plants. "We have about 4,000 plants in the warehouse at any given time," Knapp says. Though he won't give a specific number, he says monthly revenues are "several hundred thousand dollars."

However, Knapp says the cost of running a medical marijuana operation runs in the six figures as well.

That is the hardest lesson that upstart medical marijuana business owners fail to heed: It's not a simple matter of throwing up grow lights in a warehouse, planting a crop, and then smoking a joint watching the plants grow. A successful operation requires all the money and gold coins in Scrooge McDuck's bank vault and more.

To get a license in Colorado costs $3,000 to $14,000, and additional licensing fees can total about $8,000.

The state requires that every licensed medical marijuana facility must have a closed-circuit security alarm system on all perimeter entry points and perimeter windows installed by an alarm installation company approved by the enforcement division. The surveillance has to be done by a security company that must also be authorized by state regulators. Medical marijuana businesses also have to put in motion detectors, pressure switches, and panic alarms.

Knapp and his partners have spent $60,000 putting up a security system that met the standards of Colorado's marijuana enforcement division.

"We're not even close to having all our cameras up," Knapp says. "Every time we turn around and go on a bigger scale, it's ten G's here or ten G's there."

They spent $500,000 in electrical upgrades to expand the operation. "We've scaled up our environmental controls, which cost us $250,000," Knapp says. "We have to epoxy the floor in our drying room. It's only 2,200 square feet, but the lowest quote was $8,000."

Medical marijuana pot businesses have to find capital for buildings, seeds, equipment, computers, and all other startup costs through nontraditional lenders. With banks cautious about being prosecuted for money laundering and Wall Street investors just now starting to take chances on a small handful of startups for the same reasons, entrepreneurs like Knapp are forced to turn to family and friends.

"You can't go to the bank for anything," says Mark Santiago, the Miami commercial real estate broker partnering with Calkin. "That is why organized crime and shady entities have penetrated the market. Honest investors aren't diving in, leaving the market ripe for those other fucking idiots."

It's good to have an angel investor, a wealthy family member, or a loan shark — one who has a high tolerance for risk.

"You have to convince people to be more risky with their money if it all goes to shit," Knapp says. "An investor could lose all his money."

Step 9: Prepare to lose it all.

Ah, yes. It's easy to get lost in green dreams, but in truth, they could crumble. The rollout of a medical marijuana program could get bogged down by any number of foes: the Republican-controlled Legislature, Gov. Scott if he gets reelected, or local governments.

On its face, the potential tax revenue looks like red meat for politicians. California charges 7.5 percent sales tax on medical marijuana, generating $58 million to $105 million. Many cities charge a local sales tax on top of this. Colorado charges 2.9 percent sales tax on medical marijuana and collected $6 million in the last six months of 2013. (Colorado taxes recreational pot, which was made legal in January, at 25 percent; it should bring in $45 million to $98 million by the end of the year.) In Florida, medical marijuana could bring in $19 million to $337 million per year in taxes.

But consider what happened in New Jersey. In 2010, the state passed a medical marijuana law that had no provisions for patients to grow their own pot. This forced them to wait for dispensaries to open. But Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch marijuana opponent, limited the number to a mere six. Four years after medical marijuana was legalized, just three of these dispensaries have business licenses, and only one is operational. And access to medical marijuana is limited to those having certain diseases or those with terminal illnesses who are expected to die in a year. New Jersey has only 1,500 patients — who get charged $200 just to obtain a medical card (whereas other states charge $5 to $15). The 2013 study prepared by Florida's Department of Revenue estimates that if a similar scenario played out in Florida, only 452 patients would qualify during the first year.

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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.