Tuesday, May 10, 2016

John Morgan: 'Florida is ready for medical marijuana'

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2016 at 5:24 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MONIVETTE CORDEIRO
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
In a salty speech, John Morgan told thousands of pot entrepreneurs Tuesday that legalizing medical marijuana in Florida is not a question of how, but when. 

"There is no state in the union that is more ready for this industry than this state," the Orlando attorney and United for Care chairman said today. "This is the state that is the most ready for marijuana." 

Morgan spoke at length at the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo in Orlando about his efforts to legalize medical marijuana for people with debilitating medical conditions through Amendment 2. In 2014, the measure received 58 percent of voter support but failed to garner the 60 percent of votes it needed to become law. Two years and 683,149 signatures later, Amendment 2 is on the November ballot for a second time. Currently, the only strain of marijuana legal in Florida in a non-euphoric one geared toward children, and this year, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law that allows terminally ill patients to use full-strength marijuana. 

The Marijuana Business Conference and Expo (winding down today after its May 9-11 stay at Orlando's Gaylord Palms hotel) is less like your stoner friend, more like hundreds of suit-and-tie investors talking about lighting, packaging and how to build capital for marijuana. The industry expects to make from $3.5 billion to $4.3 billion in the medical and recreational marijuana market this year, said Chris Walsh, managing editor of the Marijuana Business Daily, in a speech.

Walsh draws those numbers from surveys and data analysis the Marijuana Business Daily has done. By 2020, Walsh estimates the industry could be making $6.1 billion to $11 billion a year, with recreational sales outpacing medical sales of marijuana.

Currently, the economic impact of the industry is between $14 and $17 billion. Walsh says these projections are soft because a lot of data about the industry is hard to collect in some states, like California.

"If Florida and Ohio legalize medical marijuana, they could be very big markets," he tells the audience. 
click to enlarge PHOTO BY MONIVETTE CORDEIRO
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Among the marijuana-related businesses, Karen Paull and Wendy Robbins were looking for the next marijuana millionaire in Orlando. The co-founders of "The Marijuana Show" are looking for marijuana-related companies with good ideas for potential investors and they say Florida has "huge possibilities," which is why they've also visited Tampa. Robbins and Paull say part of their job with the show is educating people across the country about the legalization of marijuana and specifically, the benefits of medical cannabis. 

"We have $20 million to offer," Robbins says. "It's a crazy amount of money. … It could be any of these people." 

In his speech, Morgan said he believes Amendment 2 failed last time because it was on the ballot in an off-year election between two gubernatorial candidates who did not motivate voters to turn out. This time, the opposition that formed against medical marijuana in 2014 has been missing, though Mel Sembler, a former U.S. ambassador and founder of the Drug Free America Foundation, says he plans to raise $10 million this year to defeat the initiative.  

Morgan says the Amendment 2 campaign plans to focus this time on Florida's seniors, who he believes need medical marijuana the most. Morgan also added that the initiative could be defeated if the opposition raised the millions of dollars they did last time, telling the crowd, "We need money." 

The nation, including Florida, is reaching a "tipping point," according to Morgan, which is the point where public support of medical marijuana is overwhelming and leads to legislative changes. His brother and father have both used medical marijuana for pain relief, and Morgan says that's all he needs to know to support legalizing it. 

"I don't really need to see FDA approval," Morgan says, referencing the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't recognize marijuana as a medicine. "I don't need to see labs … I don't know why it works. I just know it works." 

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