APRIL FOOLS — With the ongoing detrimental issues of citrus greening, SMR Farms, a subsidiary of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, has announced it now will begin growing marijuana for medical purposes.
The company, which will utilize a portion of its citrus groves that have been devastated by citrus greening for the new venture, plans to sell the marijuana to medical practices and other entities in California and Colorado, where medical marijuana has been legalized.
The first crop will be planted this fall.
SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen signed an agreement March 25 with the state of California to export the entire harvested crop.
“We’re very excited about this growing sector of what will soon be mainstream agriculture, and we hope to expand operations into the states of Washington and Colorado as well, where marijuana is already legal, and not just for medical purposes,” Jensen said.
Though marijuana is not legal in Florida, SMR has received state waivers to grow the crop, because it is for medical purposes.
Jensen said “leftovers” from the plants may be sold to make hemp necklaces, paper and hundreds of other products — making the venture extremely lucrative. A booth will be set up at the soon-to-be-resurrected Lakewood Ranch Farmers Market so residents can sign up to take a hemp-making class with the leftover plants.
Grown outdoors, the cannabis plant typically achieves maturity within three to five months.
Although SMR is taking a proactive approach against the economic hardships posed by citrus greening, local legislators are working to combat the disease and revitalize Florida’s longtime industry.
On Feb. 27, a local legislator introduced legislation to provide research funding to combat citrus greening — a deadly bacterial disease threatening to cripple Florida’s citrus industry.The bill has been co-sponsored by 22 members of the House of Representatives.
Since 2005, citrus greening has cost Florida 8,200 jobs and $4.5 billion in economic damages.
Jensen said despite the legislator’s efforts, he wants to prepare for the worst-case scenario for the citrus industry.
“We’re doing this to hedge our bets,” Jensen said.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].