Cannabis in the Capital City discussed at Tallahassee Chamber Conference

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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
August 18, 2019

Breakout sessions at the 2019 Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce included topics of medical marijuana and hemp.

The discussion surrounding medical marijuana focused on the local expanding economy, effects on agriculture, and current and future legislation.

Trulieve
CEO of Trulieve, Kim Rivers, spoke at the conference; after making its first sale in July of 2016, Trulieve is now the largest employer in Gadsden County.

Originally starting with a team of less than 10 people, Trulieve employs over 2,000, with about 1,000 coming from a 40 mile radius surrounding the facility in Quincy.

"We are very much gearing up for being able to supply double, three times the amount of medicine in the upcoming year, two years as well," said Kyle Landrum, the Director of Cultivation for Trulieve.

Landrum compared the business to a "rocket ship."

"We believe it's here to stay, and it helps a ton of people," he said.

Landrum said the company focuses on putting money back into the local economy.

Trulieve has five cultivation sites, with 4 in the greater Gadsden County area, and 31 total dispensaries in the state.

"We work to put money back into the local economy," said Landrum.

During the breakout session, Kim Rivers showed Trulieve statistics; 55% of medical cannabis dispensed in Florida comes from the company, with a weekly average of 2,800 new patients in the state.

She also saide-commerce for Trulieve is expected to contribute at least 20% of revenue in FY2019.

Legal Perspective
Glenn Burhans, a shareholder at Stearns Weaver Miller, also spoke at Saturday morning's breakout session, giving a lay of the land from a legal perspective.

Burhans said there are two ballot initiatives geared toward recreational adult marijuana use coming up at the next legislative session, as well as pending litigation that would affect the medical marijuana industry.

"There is litigation that challenges the caps that were placed on the number of licenses that can be used, and litigation that challenges the requirement of vertical integration, which means a company that cultivates the medical marijuana, processes it, also has to sell it. So it's not a horizontal, or flat market," said Burhans.

Burhans explained that vertical integration is designed to control the number of people and companies involved in the industry, making inventory control, tracking, and security more easily enforced.

He also believes we could see the possibility of recreational marijuana legalization, but does not expect that movement to emerge for another five to six years.

"Florida is the second astest growing medical marijuana population in the country," said Burhans. "1.6% of the overall population is medical marijuana patients."

Growing Hemp Industry
Holly Bell, the Director of Cannabis for the Florida Department of Agriculture, also discussed the hemp industry.

"It could be great diversification for farmers," said Bell.

She also discussed the timeline for hemp production, as her staff works on rules and regulations to get the industry ff the ground.

Her department is currently going through public comment, and hopes to have the final rules published in the next.

"My goal is to be ready for adoption by late October," said Bell.

When the rules are adopted, program can accept applications for processing, manufacturing, and cultivating hemp.

The hemp industry will be different from the vertically integrated medical marijuana program; it will instead be horizontally integrated.