How to Grow Pot for (Soon to Be) Legal Profit: Inside Cannabis Career Institute's Miami Seminar

There's an old High Times video of legendary pot grower Jorge Cervantes that opens with "the Ganja Guy" behind the wheel of an old rusty tractor. Cervantes -- wearing his iconic disguise of black sunglasses and black dreadlocks -- tells viewers he's taking them on a tour of marijuana gardens throughout his native Spain. "Well, enough talk," Cervantes says. "I have a field to plant."

That video intro alone is enough to make anyone say, "Hell yeah! Let's grow marijuana!"

It's the same feeling many entrepreneurial Floridians are experiencing as the days count down for the historic November vote to legalize medical marijuana. Almost 150 of them packed into a hotel conference room this weekend to learn about how to make money off the coming weed revolution.

Several polls show a majority of Floridians support the ballot measure, but 61 percent must turn out to vote for the constitutional amendment to pass. And the Republican-controlled Legislature could still end up heavily restricting the number of medical marijuana businesses even if the measure is approved.

The uncertainty didn't hold back the 140 Cervantes wannabes who packed a conference room at the Sheraton hotel near Miami International Airport this past Saturday. They came out for an all-day seminar hosted by Cannabis Career Institute. The California-based online school has been holding sessions about getting into the medical marijuana business throughout the country since 2009, charging $299 a head to learn about growing sticky, icky green buds and how to sell the "medical weed" to "patients." (Cough! Cough!) The fee also includes access to the institute's online classes.

Cannabis Career Institute sold out its Miami event and another one the following day in Fort Lauderdale, says school founder and president Bob Calkin, who also runs a medical marijuana delivery service in Los Angeles. He has at least a dozen other seminars scheduled in Florida from now until the November election, including a few more in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

"I'm finding people in Florida are more aware about medical marijuana regulations," Calkin says. "They are doing their due diligence. I'm running into a highly educated demographic -- many older folks, many rich people, and many businesspeople."

The Miami event had a diverse crowd, including a dude with a "thug" tattoo on his forearm, a housewife who would grow pot to treat her husband's Parkinson's disease, and a "retiree" humble-bragging about owning a pot farm with his son in northern California's Emerald Triangle, the largest cannabis producing region in the United States.

The seminar covered a wide range of topics and featured several medical marijuana experts employed by Cannabis Career Institute. Calkin opened the seminar by explaining how medical marijuana entrepreneurs have set up their businesses in states such as Washington and Colorado, which are also the only two states that have legalized recreational pot use. The weed professor also talked about obstacles all medical marijuana businesses face, such as not being able to open bank accounts to deposit cash because marijuana is still an illegal narcotic in the eyes of the federal government.

The retiree, who asked me not to use his real name, so I'll just call him "Mario Verde," says the seminar is very informative for people who don't know anything about the medical marijuana industry. He was there to network with other industry people. Verde also asserts he's never tried cheeba. Like Ice Cube, the onetime E.F. Hutton of the ghetto, once rapped: "Don't get high on your own supply."

Not toking probably also gives Verde a clearer outlook on where things stand today.

"The problem is that in the state of Florida, there are no rules," Verde says. "It is based on information from other states [that have legalized marijuana]. That doesn't necessarily mean it will be the same in Florida. But the seminar is a starting point where many of these people have absolutely no concept of what it takes or what the rules are."

Verde believes the Sunshine State medical marijuana ballot measure would set up a much more regulated system than the one in the Golden State. "California is cowboys and Indians," Verde explains. "Florida seems to be moving more toward a controlled, managed, business-like atmosphere."

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