In 2004, South Florida native Ata Gonzalez watched his father, Santiago, die at the age of 58 after a battle with lung cancer. Following his father’s death, he began learning about cannabis and its health benefits.
Gonzalez said he wishes he knew about the benefits of marijuana when his father was still alive.
“I would’ve gone anywhere in the world,” he said. “I would’ve bought anything to alleviate his pain.”
During the housing market crash, Gonzalez, who had worked as a real estate investor in South Florida for seven years, found that place in the West Coast.
In 2009, he moved to California to start G Farma Labs, a company dedicated to producing medical marijuana products.
“When I started learning the medicinal benefits, I entered the business,” said Gonzalez, 37. “I was one of the first to see what the cannabis industry was about. We were in the right place and at the right time with a brand that changed the industry.”
Gonzalez is now heading back to Miami to share his experience and knowledge with others at Sunday’s Medical Marijuana Business Seminar at the Doubletree Miami Airport Convention Center.
The seminar is a subsidiary of Kush Expo, the largest medical marijuana expo in the world.
The South Florida seminars have been held for the last five years.
Dr. Jeff Bernstein, a Miami based clinical psychologist and representative of Kush Expo, was a speaker at last month’s seminarat the Signature Grand in Davie.
“The business seminar in the past addressed opportunities for businesses that the new law offers,” said Bernstein, who will also be a speaker at the upcoming event. “There’s a lot of interest, and they usually sell out.”
Gonzalez and Bernstein are speaking alongside attorneys, advocates and other industry leaders, each with specific focus, such as corporate awareness, funding, health and legal issues.
Bernstein said the group of professionals attending the seminar is also diverse, ranging from attorneys, doctors and real estate agents to electricians, locksmiths and security personnel interested in branching out to the business. About 400 people are expected to attend the event.
“It’s a huge growth industry. Although it’s new to Florida, it’s been utilized across the country,” Bernstein said.
Medical marijuana is not legal in Florida, but a recent Quinnipac University poll shows 88 percent support for Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state and is expected to pass on the Nov.4 elections.
A study by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research estimates that the potential sales revenue would be $700million to $5billion annually, but Gonzalez urges those hoping to get into the business to not forget what the industry is really about: the patients.
“I like doing what I do to help people,” Gonzalez said. “The money comes along when you do something good.”
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