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An inside look at the Tampa Bay area's budding medical marijuana industry

From seed to sale, the industry is taking off in Tampa and even it's primed for growth if recreational marijuana gets the green light in Florida.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — It’s a sight you’ve likely seen while driving across the Tampa Bay area — storefronts for medical marijuana dispensaries popping up all over.

It’s not just the stores in our area, the entire process involved with the budding medical marijuana industry, from “seed to sale,” is happening here in Tampa.

10 Tampa Bay got an inside look at the cultivation process at FLUENT’s facility in Tampa.  

It’s a fully vertical operation — the plants literally tower to the ceiling and the company just announced they’re moving their corporate headquarters here as well.  

“We'll probably start with about 40 employees at headquarters and probably grow to 60 or 70. But our main growth is usually in production capacity. We are looking at adding another facility for production that will be in the near-Tampa area,” FLUENT CEO Robert Beasley explained.

“Tampa will now become our focal point. And this move really just gets our leadership closer to where the action is,” Beasley added.  

In fact, there’s a lot of action in the Bay area’s medical marijuana industry. Look no further than Sun City Center.

ACS Laboratory is the largest cannabis and hemp testing laboratory in the eastern half of the United States,” ACS Lab President Roger Brown said.

Florida has some of the strictest marijuana testing policies in the entire country. 

"Before you can sell those products to medical patients here in the state of Florida, you have to have them tested and they have to pass the requirements for contaminants to make sure that they're safe for human consumption. And that's what it is that we do here in the laboratory," Brown explained. 

It’s likely if you get medical marijuana, scientists at ACS have looked it over.

“The cannabis industry is growing. Every single year. Last year we did $1.3 billion in sales in the state of Florida,” Brown added.

As the Florida Supreme Court mulls whether to approve a ballot question that would allow voters to weigh in on legalizing recreational marijuana next year.

The existing cannabis footprint puts the Tampa Bay area in a unique position for growth if it happens.

“This area here is an amazing, amazing foundation for growth of the business,” Brown added.

“We're watching the growth of this industry across the country, we're eager to see what it does,” Craig Richard said, CEO and President of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, who helped facilitate FLUENT’s HQ move.

“Tampa is starting to get traction, nationally and internationally as a great destination for both businesses and families,” Richard added.

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