Meet the First Miami Farm Allowed to Grow Weed Legally

For years, Homestead and the Redland have been the epicenter of Miami's booming marijuana-growing scene. Of course, the millions of dollars' worth of weed shipped out of South Dade every year has to be produced on the sly in black-market grow houses and is subject to regular raids by law enforcement officials.     

So it's appropriate that the Redland will also be home to the first farm in Miami's history allowed to grow marijuana plants legally. Costa Nursery Farms, a large-scale operation just off SW 216th Street, yesterday snagged one of five highly sought-after licenses to grow low-THC medicinal pot.

"Costa Farms... looks forward to quickly beginning production of this much-needed medicine to serve some of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens," the farm says in a statement sent to New Times

If you're confused why the state is handing out marijuana farm licenses even though a medical pot initiative narrowly failed at the polls last year, it's because Costa won't actually be growing full-blown Mary Jane. Instead, the farm will grow a strain of the plant that was legalized last year under the so-called Charlotte's Web law. This marijuana is noneuphoric but contains the cannabinoids that have shown promise in treating seizures.

Of course, Florida being Florida, handing out licenses for the low-TCH pot has been a delay-ridden nightmare. Legislators left the Department of Health with the task of deciding who gets to grow the marijuana, and more than a year after Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill, DOH still hadn't figured it out.

Numerous farms, including Costa, filed lawsuits alleging DOH was stacking the deck with unfair bid processes. Those lawsuits were finally dropped this summer, and today the state sorted through 28 applicants to announce the five recipients of the first-ever marijuana licenses.

Costa Nursery Farms will be the only licensed grower in South Florida. The farm dates to 1961, when Jose Costa Jr. bought 30 acres in the Redland and began selling tomatoes and calamondin citrus. Today it's one of the largest farms in the Redland and has offshoots and offices in North and South Carolina, the Dominican Republic, and China. Costa has regularly been among the top ten employers in South Dade. 

Now the company will have a new product to offer — even if its target market is clearly different from those of most Redland-area marijuana operations. The state won't confirm Costa's license until it puts up a $5 million bond, but the farm says it's eager to start growing. 

"We are committed to providing the safest and most effective treatment to those suffering from qualifying conditions and will work diligently to ensure its availability with as little delay as possible," Costa says. "Severely ill patients in our state will soon have a new medical treatment option that has shown great promise in easing the debilitating symptoms created by illnesses such as intractable childhood epilepsy."

If voters pass a wider medical marijuana initiative next year, Costa could also have the inside track on the far more lucrative legal weed market that seems likely to come to Florida sooner rather than later. 
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink