On Tuesday, I wondered aloud who was ready to make some money if medical marijuana becomes legal in Florida after November's vote. There was only one corporation with "marijuana" in its name listed in the state so far.
Since, then I heard from a few others who said they're waiting to see what happens with the vote or that they are purposely registering under names that don't have "marijuana" in the title because in other states that have legalized weed, it's been hard for pot businesses to get bank accounts. (While "drowning in cash" sounds like a great problem to have, there are crazy security concerns.) Don't worry, though -- pot entrepreneurs are out there salivating.
One man, Jeremy Bufford, proprietor of Medical Marijuana Tampa, has already pounced. He is preparing to open a chain of 15 dispensaries with a quality-control lab and next week will launch his school for medical marijuana workers and entrepreneurs. He has already hired five people and expects to hire 350 more, plus trigger a mini-real estate boom assuming the initiative passes and he signs leases on the properties he's already scoped out. His website is already advertising for 15 positions from "lead botanist" to "delivery driver" to "executive chef" to "professor of cannabis."
I spoke to Bufford at length about his preparations and predictions for the medical marijuana industry in Florida:
New Times: I was surprised that there was only one corporation with the word "marijuana" in the name registered in Florida so far. Jeremy Bufford: I'm equally surprised that there hasn't been more announcement, that there has not been any other company that is standing up and saying they're going to have competitive offerings in the medical marijuana space.
There's one company in Tampa -- they're in the neutraceutical space -- moving to produce some sort of pill or product that is derived from cannabinoids. They're going more towards the medicinal pharmacology route. We plan on opening the actual treatment centers -- we have 15 in Tampa Bay area from Bradenton to Lakeland to New Port Richey. We will also have a lab testing facility -- for quality control of the product -- in early 2015. We're already in operation with our classroom environment -- to educate caregivers, and the general public. Our first class is next Tuesday. It will cover the historical, legal, botanical aspects of medicinal marijuana, plus what's going to happen in the marketplace in Florida in 2015 based on our analysis of the ballot language. We can make educated guesses and prepare our students for careers or opportunity that's going to develop in that space.
Are you going to franchise? That's a really good question. We feel comfortable with the opportunities in the Tampa Bay area, but we do have development partners [in other regions of the state] who are consulting with us on how they can roll this out.
Are you worried about chains from Colorado or California coming in and dominating the market? You don't see that type of market consolidation -- some businesses have multiple locations in California and Colorado, but the landscape is dominated by the mom-and-pop model... Though I do anticipate that development in the future.
Like Home Depot wiping out small hardware stores... Yeah, one day Marijuana Depot will own it all! [Differing state laws make it difficult for one national corporation to dominate in the U.S., but] look up Tweed in Canada -- they have aspirations to go with the Costco model -- they bought a former Hershey chocolate manufacturing facility.
Have you already signed leases and will you be ready to go the day after this passes, or are you holding back and waiting to see how the vote goes? We are absolutely all in... [The classroom is ready and we've identified locations for dispensaries but] won't execute leases until November/December. [The ballot initiative specifies that the state Department of Health has six months to set up the regulatory framework.]