Growing medical marijuana could become Florida's next big industry

BOCA RATON, FL (WFLX) ; Depending on what voters decide in November, Florida could become the 23rd state to make medical marijuana legal. But what would that cost - or earn for - the state? Some believe the passage of Amendment 2 would create a new kind of economy.

"People see this as the next big American industry," said Peter Sessa of the Florida Cannabis Coalition. "They want a piece of it and they don't know where to go."

Sessa said he is already fielding many questions from Floridians about how to break into the medical marijuana industry. "There's interest in people who want to open up a dispensary. There's interest in people who want to grow," he said. "There's people who are interested in wanting to have ancillary businesses."

The state's Office of Economic and Demographic Research recently found that about 417,000 Floridians would sign up to use medical marijuana in the first year if Amendment 2 passes. Research showed it would cost an estimated $1.1 million for the state to implement the measure. But it could bring in anywhere from $8 million to $338 million in sales tax revenue, all depending on how much pot Florida's health department allows each individual to purchase.

"This is moving faster than any other industry I've ever experienced," said Sessa.

Fellow medical marijuana supporter Tom Quigley is as enthusiastic but he knows starting any business comes with potential missteps. "This is a brand new industry," said Quigley. "It's very important to know who you are dealing with and who you are in business with."

Opponents say passing Amendment 2 would create a loosely regulated system that opens to door to "unfettered" access to marijuana in the future.

Until the measure is shot down by voters, preparations for it's passage and economic impact press on.

"We've seen bad business practices in pretty much every state," said Sessa. "What we want to do in Florida is learn from that."

The Florida Cannabis Coalition is holding an event on Friday afternoon at the Renaissance Marriott Boca Raton about the business impacts of medical marijuana in Florida. For event information, click here.

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