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CEOs split on encouraging marijuana sales in Florida

Governor DeSantis’ announcement on medical marijuana

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for an end to Florida's ban on smokable medical marijuana in Winter Park, Florida, on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for an end to Florida's ban on smokable medical marijuana in Winter Park, Florida, on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019.

CEOs were asked: Gov. DeSantis has proposed liberalizing marijuana laws in the state. Should Florida be encouraging marijuana sales? Why or why not?

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Our company has developed a cashless business banking solution that will overcome the adverse regulatory banking problems. We have spoken to representatives within our state to introduce our Kiosk Dispensary with cashless sales, maintaining/fulfilling the BSA-AML-KYC compliance regulations that does not allow sellers, growers and banks to conduct business with one another. Yes, the state of Florida should allow recreational and medical marijuana sales and tax them accordingly. If you look at the Colorado Plan, that state in its first year realized more than $1.6B in tax revenues. They still have deep issues with prohibition of banking. Florida, could possibly realize double that amount and allow the industry to own and have access to banking. Right now, it is a cash-only business and that invites organized criminal activities which needs to be eliminated from the equation. Florida can become the leader for this industry by including and incorporating banking solutions. We believe ours is the quintessential program that can be adopted nationally

Jim Angleton, CEO for Aegis FinServ Corp.

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Cleveland Clinic does not support the use of recreational or medical marijuana. We support research that isolates specific compounds found in marijuana, such as cannabidiol (CBD), that can then be used to produce safe, dose-specific marijuana-derived medicines. This measured approach, which allows for testing and regulatory oversight, needs to be done with caution and a full appreciation for the lessons learned from today’s opioid epidemic.

Wael Barsoum, M.D., CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic Florida

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Ocean Bank, like all banks, is prohibited by federal law from providing banking services to companies engaged in the marijuana industry, regardless of the intended use.

Agostinho Alfonso Macedo, president and CEO of Ocean Bank

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It’s less a question of encouraging marijuana sales and more about recognizing the need for marijuana law reform, both at the state and federal levels. Personally, I would not “encourage” marijuana sales. However, with so many states already leading the way in marijuana law reform and increasing support within the state of Florida, it is a matter of finding the right balance for our state. Advantages of legalization include reduced harm (criminalization of marijuana disproportionally affects youth and youth of color), creates jobs, saves money, and promotes consumer safety. Legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana is an issue of social justice, with state and federal tax revenue opportunities.

Chelsea Wilkerson, CEO of Girl Scouts Tropical Florida

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It is too late to ask that question. Voters have already expressed their approval of marijuana usage in Florida. With the principle of supply and demand, there must be entities available to fill the need. Besides, whether one encourages marijuana sales or not, one cannot escape the reality that millions of dollars were previously spent locking up people for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Perhaps this money could be spent researching how to implement the will of the voters’ best interests and overhauling the present system to handle the new marijuana laws.

Dorcas L. Wilcox, CEO of Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services

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As a business leader, the benefits aren’t obvious as potential tax revenues are complicated by payment restrictions and related reporting.

Louis Hernandez Jr., CEO, of Black Dragon Capital

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This is a complicated issue. I am deeply concerned by the data regarding the manner in which marijuana possession laws are enforced in Florida and in other states, in which marijuana use has not been decriminalized. The cost of enforcement of marijuana possession laws and the impact on our judicial system is significant. And I am also concerned by the lack of data regarding the health ramifications of marijuana use. I do not think that Florida should be affirmatively encouraging marijuana sales. It is one thing to decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use; it is quite another to affirmatively encourage marijuana sales.

Paul Singerman, co-chair of Berger Singerman

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I don’t know enough about marijuana laws in the state to opine on this matter. However, I do believe that marijuana is a gateway drug and for those reasons I am not in favor of legalizing it.

James “Jimmy” Tate, co-owner and president of TKA-Evolution Apparel and of Tate Capital; co-founder of Tate Development Corp.

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Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016, but lawmakers banned smokable pot when they enacted a law to implement it. Marijuana in Florida is legal for medical use per Florida Amendment 2, but illegal for recreational use. Gov. DeSantis has proposed liberalizing marijuana laws. Under Amendment 2, medical marijuana will be given to the patient if the physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient. Initially, under Florida regulations, smoking the medication was not allowed; instead the product could be consumed as edibles or by vaping, oils, sprays or pills. Since 2018, a Leon County Court judge ruled that the ban on smoking is unconstitutional. That ruling was appealed by the administration of Gov. Scott but the administration of Gov. DeSantis dropped the appeal and asked for the legislature to lift the restriction. As of March , a bill was passed to remove the prohibition on smoking. The state of Florida should encourage the sale of marijuana as it relates to whom and how the medication can be consumed. It has been projected that the marijuana industry will bring an additional $1 billion to the state by the year 2020. With the encouragement of the state, the cannabis industry also will allow a competitive market to emerge. Although Florida has seen its fair share challenges to establish a legal framework, lawmakers are determined to create an industry that will serve the citizens and business owners fairly. With the recent approved laws, the state of Florida should be encouraging marijuana sales for medical purposes.

Rashad D. Thomas, vice president of business connect and community outreach for the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee

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