On Friday, January 24, Chad Cooke and Andy Monet went out for a celebratory beer. Earlier that day, election officials had announced that enough petition signatures had been verified to force a vote on whether to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. The duo had been working tirelessly for weeks on the petition drive.
Like other entrepreneurs throughout the state, Cooke and Monet are hoping that the constitutional amendment will pass when it goes to voters in November -- and that shortly afterward, they can cash in.
It's still a gamble -- no one knows whether the amendment will pass; even if it does, the state health department will have six months to set up the regulatory framework; and individual cities and towns may add their own rules on top of that. Despite the risks and the fallability of predictions, some businesses are maneuvering to be among the first in the game.
Cooke and Monet first had visions of opening a medical marijuana center in Florida two years ago, when several states began adding medical marijuana amendments. Today they're taking concrete steps. They've incorporated their business, Oceanside Health Center, launched a Facebook page and website, and scouted locations to lease in Jupiter and nearby Stuart. They're currently negotiating with investors, consulting with well-known names in various medical marijuana advocacy groups, and even have a chemist onboard prepared to start trademarking formulas once the legislation passes.
For now, Cooke prefers not to dispel too many details about his current job in case his employers won't be too pleased with his side project. Monet owns a construction company in California (among other things) and was around when Proposition 215 passed, which exempted California patients and caregivers from criminal persecution if a physician recommended marijuana for treatment. He saw how businesses boomed following the change in legislation.
The entrepreneurial pair has since recruited Dr. Brian Hicks as Oceanside Health Center's chemist. With a chemist onboard, the center can eventually trademark formulas to sell to other dispensaries. "It also means our potency is the same every single time," Cooke stresses. "It'll be consistent: the same quality and quantity every time."
CBD-based products will be the main focus. CBD (Cannabidiol) is a compound found in cannabis that has medicinal properties -- anything from anti-inflammatory to anti-anxiety -- but does not carry the same psychoactive properties as THC. "Our priority would be CBD-based products to cater to those 50 years or older," Cooke explains. "We want to stay away from people just looking to stay high."
If the amendment passes, Monet intends to sign the lease papers that very day to secure a location. Even if they can't open for another six months while the health department sorts out the legislative kinks, Cooke and Monet want to start offering classes to educate the public on medical marijuana. "We want to teach the public that marijuana is medicine," Cooke says. "This isn't marijuana madness!"
Assuming the bill passes, Cooke and Monet hope to open their own grow center after six months of operation. Considering medical marijuana sells at $200 an ounce in Colorado, Monet estimates making $7,000 to $10,000 gross profit a week.
"The state will be making money hand over fist," Monet says. "There are a lot of talkers out there, but the push for recreational [marijuana in Florida] will happen two to three years down the road. It'll happen with the next president."