This is 'Part 2' of Holly's exclusive story - click HERE to read 'Part 1.'

Florida is on the brink of a new industry.  Six Florida nurseries have invested millions, betting that commercial cannabis is about to take off.  This fall voters will decide if Florida will join 25 other state that have legalized medical marijuana. 

  • Surterra Therapeutics growing full-strength cannabis at Tampa area facility
  • Currently, terminally-ill patients are only people allowed to use full-strength product
  • 131 Florida doctors have taken 8-hour course to get certified to prescribe cannabis

Right now, full strength cannabis is legal only as a last resort for patients with very little time left live.  Marijuana plants are in the ground right now in Hillsborough County to help those patients.  In the meantime, growers and doctors are laying the groundwork to meet the cannabis demand, if voters approve it.

Surterra Therapeutics is operating a medical marijuana nursery in Tallahassee and is almost ready to serve patients.

“It’s actually very exciting.  It’s like having a baby you can’t quite share with anyone yet, “ said Susan Driscoll, President of Surterra.  “We know that Surterra is looking out for the people of Florida, so the more that that can see that we’re almost there.”

Surterra is already harvesting it’s low THC product, commonly called “Charlotte’s Web.”  But it’s not just the low THC plants Surterra is growing.  

The company is also growing full-strength cannabis at a secret location in Hillsborough County.  The plants are growing in pods, virtually untouched by humans, to reduce risk of contamination.

“The facility in the Tampa area is much more controlled from the environment standpoint, “ said Driscoll.  “We don’t go in and interact much with the plants.  Our horticulturists can, but we don’t let a lot of the outside in, because you don’t want it influencing the plants.”

Currently, terminally ill patients are the only people in Florida who can legally use full strength cannabis.  Lawmakers approved it only for patients suffering from a disease that will claim their lives with one year, and two doctors must agree on the diagnosis.  

The state registry for any patient seeking medical marijuana, whether full strength or Charlotte’s Web, just started on July 1st.  

Dr. George Kamajian runs a family practice clinic in Largo.  He is beginning to register his patients who qualify for medical marijuana.  

“If marijuana works for certain people, and we know it does, then we need to make it legitimate so people don’t get arrested, “ said Dr. Kamajian.  “If it helps people, then let’s do it.”

Dr. George Kamajian is starting to register his patients who qualify for medical marijuana. (Holly Gregory, staff)

So far, 131 doctors in Florida have taken the eight-hour course to become certified to prescribe cannabis.  Before prescribing medical marijuana, a doctor must have treated the patient for at least three months.  

Then, the patient’s name must be submitted to Florida’s new “Compassionate Use Registry.”  The patient’s treatment program must also be submitted four times a year to the University of Florida College of Pharmacy for research.

Dr. Kamajian says he’s never smoked marijuana in his life, and isn’t trying to change anybody’s mind on medical cannabis. He does, however, want people to keep an open mind.

“I worked in an emergency room in Boston for 30 years and never once had to stitch anybody up from a bar fight who was high on marijuana, “ he said.  “Nobody ever died of a marijuana overdose.”

So how will patient’s fill their medical marijuana prescriptions?  

The six licensed growers in the state are also the operators of the medical marijuana dispensaries.  Surterra is opening its first dispensary next month in Tampa, and will their dispenseries 'Wellness Centers.'  

The company says to think of them as a combination of a doctor’s office and a spa.  The goal with these facilities is for families to feel comfortable bringing children into a professional environment.  In addition, there will be no visible marijuana leaf symbols, like we have seen at dispensaries in other states.