NEW YORK (MainStreet) When Robert Platshorn was arrested for a non violent offense that involved smuggling more than 60,000 pounds of pot from Colombia to Florida, possession was illegal in all 50 states, plus D.C. After more than 29 years in federal prison, the husband and father emerged six years ago and became re-involved in the industry as a decriminalization and legalization activist.
"We win after all this time," said Platshorn who has since founded theSilverTour.org, a non-profit organization that teaches senior citizens about medical marijuana. "Millions of people will get an effective medicine they should have been able to secure 40 years ago, and the fact that people won't be needlessly going to jail makes me feel that what I am doing is worthwhile."
The Republican dominated Florida legislature voted last week to allow doctors to prescribe non-euphoric marijuana that has less than 0.8% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to treat severe illnesses but the bill is limited.
"In order for cannabinoids (CBDs) to be effective they have to bind with THC to be accepted by the cannabinoid receptors in the body," Platshorn told MainStreet. "A high CBD is useless for treating illnesses, such as chronic pain or multiple sclerosis without THC. It's like taking vitamins without minerals. They don't do anything."
Platshorn is banking on regular marijuana legalization through a November 4 ballot initiative, which is unrelated to the bill that's currently under consideration by Florida Governor Rick Scott.
"Our legalization will be based on an amendment, which was forced onto the ballot by successful public petition," said Platshorn who lives in West Palm Beach. "The people will vote and once it passes, the governor can't delay or stop it, because it's a constitutional amendment."
Although Governor Rick Scott has reportedly said he will sign the non-euphoric bill into law when it reaches his desk, Platshorn told MainStreet that once signed the law creates obstacles that are almost insurmountable locally.
"They made it mandatory for the few growers who will be licensed to have 30 years' growing experience, and they are required to grow 80,000 pounds in Florida," said Platshorn.
What makes Florida an interesting cannabis market is its high number of retirees.
"What we have found through our work in Colorado is that the patient population is aging," said Meg Sanders, CEO of Gaia Colorado, which operates dispensaries and a grow facility in Denver. "Our highest growing patient base is 65 years old and up, and Florida has a large senior population. That's our interest in Florida, because medical marijuana can help many people with different ailments, including the elderly."
Platshorn is preparing for the onslaught of cannabis entrepreneurs that are waiting in the wings for legalization to enter the fast growing market by hosting his second Florida Marijuana Conference on May 17 at the Emerald Hills Country Club near the Ft. Lauderdale Airport.
"There are workshops planned on how to get a license, the cost of setting up grow facilities and how to operate a dispensary," said Platshorn.
So far 200 people have registered, which is double the number from last year.
"It's a perfect business for me, because I know the industry inside out," he said.
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet