More than 60 people gathered in between racks of clothes and jewelry at a Neiman Marcus Thursday night to discuss a Florida industry that is quickly growing and attracting new business—cannabis.
The networking event and seminar involved lawyers, accountants and other professionals who see opportunities in the cannabis sector and want to capitalize. They discussed state regulations for cannabis companies with people already involved in the industry and challenges new businesses can face.
Similar sessions happen every other month between Broward and Palm Beach Counties and once a month in Miami-Dade. Robert Friedman organizes them for the networking group Cannabis Lab and said they are a response to growing excitement over medical marijuana in Florida.
“The attorneys, the investors, the insurance people—they’re all trying to find their place in this industry. So what you’re seeing is a medically legal product in this state, and now it’s figuring out how to implement what we’ve made legal,” Friedman said.
Florida’s cannabis industry is quickly becoming more lucrative. More than 200,000 patients across the state are eligible to use any form of marijuana to treat illnesses like epilepsy, PTSD and Alzheimer’s. And the state’s pot market is projected to surpass $1 billion by 2021.
The monthly events by Cannabis Lab are for networking and intend to help attendees find an early footing with cannabis. Thursday’s session at the Neiman Marcus in the Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale focused on the process of opening up a business in the industry. Speakers who already work in the sector warned attendees about potential pitfalls.
“In a medical marijuana industry, you tend to have a lot of regulation and not a lot of resource, which means you have to be on your ball,” Zack Kobrin, an attorney with clients in the industry, said during the seminar. “The smallest little thing that falls through the cracks can end up biting you in the end.”
Attendees ranged from people who have long followed the cannabis sector to those just recently interested in it. Many said they want to find a niche in the industry while it’s still young and opportunity is widespread.
David Levy of Coral Springs is the president of Ibis Technology, an IT company that specializes in mobilizing business through cloud virtual desktop software. He said he’s been noticing professionals “take what they already know and what their experts at” to the cannabis sector. He wants to do the same.
“Take our specialty, which is IT integration, and apply it to dispensaries, cultivation operations. A lot of people know a lot of the marijuana business, but they don’t know about IT. We’re hoping to bridge that gap,” he said.
Tiffany Brown, an attorney from Miramar who focuses on compliance, said she initially did not plan to join the cannabis industry. She runs a consulting company called Legalize My Hustle and only started thinking about cannabis after people approached her wondering if the firm’s title meant she specialized in marijuana.
She now wants to help prospective cannabis businesses navigate statewide compliance regulations. But while she’s excited about the potential growth of the cannabis industry, she said the learning curve has been steep.
“There are so many different rules,” she said. “You have the laws that the state has passed. But then you also have to deal with the different regulations at the cities.”
Thursday’s session was Brown’s first. She said she plans on attending more.
“The people here are very passionate, which makes it very helpful,” she said. “The energy is here.”