Lee County Entrepreneur Trying to Get Marijuana Grow Facilities to Move South

Lee County Entrepreneur Trying to Get Marijuana Grow Facilities to Move South

Many of the marijuana grow facilities in Florida are located in the northern part of the state near Tallahassee. Perhaps it is simply coincidental that many of the stores that patients can walk in and buy their medication are also located in the northern part of the state. It is not a big problem for southern Florida for now, and more medical marijuana treatment centers are likely to come south over time. The one thing that more grow facilities and treatment centers in southern Florida could do is potentially add more job opportunities to local residents. Would you consider looking into employment in Florida’s medical marijuana program?

The roads of rural Lee County form a web running around and between vast fields of oranges and grapefruit, melons and potatoes, steer and cows.

Soon the agricultural acres and fodder fields could lie next to what may be Florida’s next cash crop — medical marijuana.

As the first anniversary approaches when voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, entrepreneurs are looking for a Lee County site to provide a local source of medical cannabis.

But the law implementing medical marijuana requires a cannabis dispensary licensee to control the product from planting the seeds to filling the prescriptions.

“In Florida, medical marijuana businesses are vertically integrated meaning they cultivate, process and dispense,” said Mara Gambineri, communications director for the state Department of Health.

Growers could pair up with people with a background in running a storefront business to create the vertical integration that could be beyond the expertise of either.

“We want to grow and dispense,” said Steven Brown-Casterno, a Fort Myers entrepreneur who is seeking a license for a marijuana dispensary in Lee County. “If we don’t get a grow license, we want to partner with whoever is willing to partner with us.”

Brown-Casterno’s Simino Health Centers will apply for a license by itself or with an agricultural partner. He sees local growing as a way to cut costs over the practice of shipping the product from other markets.

“I want to grow in Lee County because I keep 25-30 jobs in Lee County,” Brown-Casterno said. “I don’t think there is enough interest (among producers) to grow in Lee or Collier County, most of the growers are central or in the Tallahassee region.”

It was a year ago Wednesday that Florida voters endorsed the constitutional amendment that changed the state’s attitude toward cannabis.


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