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Florida businesses poised to pounce on medical marijuana

Florida entrepreneurs are setting up financing and training to cash in if Amendment 2 passes in November

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An accident during military training exercises left Auburndale, Florida, resident Michael Blackburn with a herniated disc in his back, accompanied by muscle spasms and nerve pain. At first, Blackburn tried the legal route: He used prescribed pain relievers and opiates to ease his pain. What followed, he says, was a destructive downward spiral of addiction and weight problems due to the side effects of the pills he was taking – they nearly ruined his body, his marriage and his life.

Things began to look up for Blackburn when his brother Mitchell, a college student at the time, suggested a rather unorthodox route to deal with pain: marijuana.

Blackburn was skeptical until he tried it. Marijuana not only helped with his back pain, he says – it also enabled him to quit the pills that were slowly eating away at every facet of his life. After kicking the pharmaceutical habit, Blackburn teamed up with Mitchell and their father, Robert, to start the Central Florida Farmacy, a company that he says will become a licensed cannabis grower and distributor of cannabis-related goods if Amendment 2 – the ballot amendment that will put the question of medical marijuana in the hands of voters – passes in November.

The company’s motto? “Safe access to high quality cannabis.”

“In Florida, there’s a huge problem with drug dealers, with crime. You don’t know what kinds of chemicals are in what you get off the street,” Blackburn says. “Our goal is to eliminate those problems by growing it organically, using no pesticides and no growth hormones. We want to provide safe access in a safe environment, safe neighborhood, where they don’t have to deal with drug dealers and stuff like that.”

While the Farmacy is not yet out of diapers, it is just one of many eager upstarts passionate about starting medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida. Others, such as the Apopka-based Marijuana Farmacy, the Cannabis Clinic of Orlando and many more, have also cropped up in recent months, adding to the ever-growing landscape of hopeful marijuana dispensaries waiting with bated breath for November’s verdict.

Yes, it seems the marijuana business is budding in Florida. The striking thing about those getting into the medical marijuana business is their often intensely personal reasons for doing so. Blackburn’s trial by cannabis is only one such story – many of those entering the medical marijuana industry are dissatisfied with the state of over-the-counter pain medication and want a better alternative for themselves or their loved ones who are suffering. As a result, they see the plight of others, even those they have never met. The ability for empathy is widespread among medical marijuana dispensary hopefuls.

“We want to help other people suffering from pain and diseases, and provide them the same relief I was able to have,” Blackburn says.

One shepherd leading the slew of eager entrepreneurs through the wilderness of Florida’s murky medical marijuana waters is the Cannabis University of Florida. Started in April of 2014 in Jacksonville, the university is barely two months old. But the website has had more than 15,000 hits since it was established – a smoke signal that indicates that Florida is more than ready to talk about the issue more seriously.

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