ALTHA A Calhoun county nursery is one of a handful across the state in the running to grow a form of marijuana for medical use. State officials plan to select one business for each of five regions. Some residents near the Altha nursery have mixed feelings about the possibility.
Olgesby Plant International in Altha is one of the nurseries under consideration to legally grow and distribute medical marijuana here in Florida.
"I think it's a business opportunity, and as a business man we need to look at it,” explained president Gary Hennen. “Not only for the company, but for the community. So I don't think we should ignore it."
The state is lining up five nurseries across the state to grow a non-smokable form of marijuana called 'Charlotte's Web'.
Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill legalizing it's specific use for patients, mostly children, to alleviate seizures brought on by epilepsy or cancer.
If the state selects Olgesby Plant International, Hennen believes the work will be challenging.
"From being a nurseryman, to being a pharmaceutical manufacture. That's quite a large leap for us. So, not only do you have to grow it, you have to turn it into an oil, pharmaceutical grade oil and then you have to set up distribution sites around this territory," he explained.
Hennen said that growing the medical marijuana here could produce jobs. Residents agree, but said it could also bring unneeded controversy.
"For all the churches and things we have around here, I think it would create a lot of controversy that we don't need to see in this area more than we already do," said resident Ciara Davis.
"It's incredible when you start looking at the real medical benefits of this. I believe there are some medical benefits to it and I know its controversial. It's marijuana," Hennen explained.
Hennen has to submit a business plan to the State Department of Health, detailing his growing and distribution process.
The state has to issue the licenses by the end of the year. Oglesby plants has been in business since 1947 and employs more than 90 people.
In December, Gov. Scott presented Hennen with the business ambassador award for creating jobs and opportunities for Florida families.