Chiles has high hopes for expanding business

Ed Chiles
Ed Chiles
The Chiles Restaurant Group, which owns and operates the BeachHouse restaurant in Bradenton Beach, the Sandbar in Anna Maria and Mar Vista in Longboat Key, is venturing into medical marijuana.
“My partner and I, Ted LaRoche, purchased a share in 3 Boys Farm in Ruskin in 2013,” CEO Ed Chiles said. “They were the first hydroponic grower in the country certified by the USDA. I was interested in it for the restaurants. They were growing beautiful lettuces, tomatoes, fruits and all kinds of things I could use, just like we did with Gamble Creek Farm. That’s where I was coming from. When the first medical marijuana rule came down it was very specific, and there were only 40 or 50 people in the state that met that barrier, so it became something we had to look at. You had to have 30 years of continued ownership and you had to be growing 400,000 plants a year. 3 Boys Farm was ideally suited, so we decided to make an application and we were ultimately successful.”
Chiles said he is a minority partner and he does not expect to play an active role in the growing and distribution operations.
When asked why he supports medicinal marijuana, Chiles said, “I think there are a tremendous amount of people in Florida that want access to its medicinal qualities. People want access to a plant that doesn’t have side effects like a lot of the other medicines do. Seventy-one percent of the people voted for it and there are a lot of people that want to try this to see if it helps.
“I realize people have different opinions on this, but this is about compassionate care. People deserve access. It’s long overdue and 29 states have done it. We need to do it, understand it and see what it helps with. I believe in what we’re doing,” he said.
“It certainly would have helped my mother Rhea in the last three months of her life. I firmly believe that. She was in a lot of pain. At the time, I wished she would have had access to it to see if it helped with her appetite, her pain and getting her mind off things,” he added.
When it comes to distribution and dispensaries, Chiles and his partners are still waiting on the state to put in place the regulations that will govern this expanding industry.
Last week Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law that prohibits patients from smoking medical marijuana, but it allows for consumption using a vaporizer, which is basically the same thing. Orlando attorney and medical marijuana advocate John Morgan has already announced plans to challenge that aspect of the new law.
Chiles said there are currently eight or nine certified growers in the state and seven or eight more waiting in the wings. Once the new law takes effect, 3 Boys Farm plans to be growing within 30 days and harvesting in about four months.
Each licensed grower will be allowed up to 25 dispensaries statewide. All three Island cities have prohibited marijuana dispensaries, but Chiles is confident there will be at least a few in Manatee County operated by 3 Boys and/or their competitors.
In terms of economic development, Chiles said, “There’s going to be a billion-dollars-plus industry grow up around this and that’s going to create a lot of jobs. There will be people doing the growing, the dispensing, the distribution and providing security. Tomatoes are a $400 million industry in Florida and this is going to be three times that pretty quickly,” he said.