The founders of a small company recently established on Treasure Island are ordinary people, with diverse backgrounds but a singular focus: to build a company that is more than a business making money. They envision an endeavor that is a social enterprise to improve the quality of the lives of people they impact and is a positive force in the community. They also believe in the benefits of medical marijuana and educating others.
Tom Murphy was a successful businessman who, like many people, chose this area to retire. But he got bored quickly and wanted something to do. “Twelve years ago the love of life my life, my wife, was taken from me by ovarian cancer and it was very challenging, and in the same year my mom was taken by pancreatic cancer. The stuff that happens to people from chemo and radiation is terrible–it’s heart wrenching and gut wrenching,” he says. He attributes that experience to his passion for his company Gulf Coast Canna Meds (GCCM) and the burgeoning cannabis industry.
His business acumen told him it was also a very logical thing to do. “I talked to some friends that are in the cannabis business in Colorado and California, and they sent me some information. …. I flew out and spent some time in Colorado doing due diligence,” he adds. The numbers were very good.
Oscar Mouton, a Marine vet and career law enforcement officer who first met Murphy in his college days in Maryland, lives here now and chanced upon Murphy at Publix. He was aghast when Murphy asked him to work for GCCM.
“He asked me if I’d consider doing security,” says Mouton. “I asked for what, and he said for his marijuana business. Here I’ve been a cop and I’m not about to provide security for someone to get high–it goes against my ethos,” he recalls. “Murphy insisted it was for medical reasons, and I didn’t buy that; I was a true cynic.” He thought it was just another excuse for people to get high. “That was the day that my education started,” he adds.
He says it is ironic that he is now a true believer. “There’s no doubt in my mind that medical marijuana is the way forward for a lot of people, not everybody, but for a lot of people.
“I can tell you, I’ve buried way too many of my own, not just on the military side,” he said, “but on the law enforcement side, because suicide is law enforcement’s dirty little secret as well.” Some PTSD sufferers report relief from their symptoms taking medical marijuana.
Mouton was also injured in the last of four tours in Afghanistan and spent a year undergoing surgeries and physical therapy, so he can relate to vets who want to use it for pain relief as well.
Linda Colindres is a registered nurse who spent her career in pediatrics at All Children’s Hospital. She became an investor and works for GGCM because she believes in it.
“It helps children with seizures, children that have intractable seizures which means they have seizures all the time.” She says many of them are already neurologically damaged, but it could help them do some basic things to improve what quality of life they have.
“Cannabis is a neuroprotective so it also helps with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other things,” she adds.
She has joined The American Cannabis Nurses Association, a national organization dedicated to expanding the knowledge base among nurses of endo-cannabinoid therapeutics, and has taken online courses and attended seminars. She is also a cancer survivor with herownpainissues.
At a spring meeting of the Veterans of South Pinellas County another believer and company founder Dr. Andrew E. Hano, a retired a hematologist/medical oncologist, talked about the relief cannabisas provided for patients in legally prescribed forms. His experience dates back to his fellowship in Detroit in the early ‘80s, when it was used for a brief period for chemotherapy induced nausea. His wife is also battling the disease.
Before Amendment 2 passed in November, GCCM worked as advocates for the law. It took effect Jan. 3, but the details for implementation are being hammered out in Tallahassee during the ongoing legislative session. Murphy characterizes the restrictive House Bill 307 like going back to prohibition and strongly favors Senate Bill 614. Gulf Coast Canna Meds does not dispense any products; they are focusing on raising capital and education and advocacy. Once legislation is passed, it will drive how they proceed.
Murphy says there are only seven companies currently allowed to provide medial marijuana in Florida. He says the lack of competition drives up prices and limits availability to people who need the drug. He and the other founders at GCCM hope that more competition from companies like theirs will drive down prices and increase availability so the relief it provides may be available to any qualifying patient. With more than 71 percent of Florida voters approving Amendment 2, Mouton hopes Tallahassee has gotten the message.
“A couple years ago I was armed with an M4, and now I’m armed with pamphlets,” Mouton says about his current advocacy role, “but we are slowly taking the beachhead. I just hope Tallahassee sees it the way the people voted.” For more information go to www.gulfcoastcannameds.com.