Sarasota medical marijuana company announces partnership
Sarasota company AltMed could soon be a major player in the state’s emerging medical marijuana industry after announcing a partnership Thursday with a Ruskin company that is licensed to grow and sell the drug in Florida.
AltMed had been seeking its own license but Florida tightly restricts how many medical marijuana licenses are awarded. Instead, AltMed will operate under Plants of Ruskin’s license and take the lead on product development, lab testing, marketing, dispensary sales and home delivery for the joint venture.
“We quite frankly never thought we’d partner with anyone in Florida until we met Plants of Ruskin,” said AltMed Marketing Director Todd Beckwith. “Like a successful marriage we have shared values and are stronger together”
AltMed will operate dispensaries under the MuV by AltMed Florida brand. MuV is the name of AltMed’s line of cannabis infused products.
Founded in Sarasota three years ago, AltMed has been operating in Arizona while company leaders waited for medical marijuana to be approved in Florida. AltMed has 50 employees in Arizona and 10 at its corporate headquarters in Sarasota, but the company should soon begin adding more Florida employees.
“We’ll grow as our business grows,” Beckwith said.
Beckwith said the company expects to open its first Florida dispensaries in the first quarter of 2018. Plants of Ruskin already has a 150,000-square-foot growing facility in southern Hillsborough County that is expected to be operational soon.
AltMed currently provides products to roughly half of the medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona and was recently approved to begin distributing products in Colorado. The company is working to get its products approved in 12 other states and five foreign companies.
Beckwith said AltMed has a number of products that are not offered by any other Florida medical marijuana company, a fact that should give AltMed a competitive advantage. He pointed to the company’s transdermal patch and metered dose inhaler. The company also has won awards for it’s marijuana extract products and has a proprietary extraction process. That’s important in Florida because the state bans smoking medical marijuana so extract products are the entire market.
One of AltMed’s missions is to bring a higher level of professionalism to the medical marijuana industry, Beckwith said. Company co-founder and CEO Michael Smullen was involved with a company called MedImmune that was sold to AstraZeneca for $15.6 billion in 2007.
Smullen took some time off after the sale but two personal experiences eventually led him to found AltMed. His daughter had an epileptic seizure and he heard about a drug made from marijuana extracts that helps seizure patients. He also had a brother who died from cancer and “he saw the end of life struggle he went through from opioids,” Beckwith said.
Seeded with pharmaceutical industry veterans, AltMed’s business plan revolves around bringing “pharmaceutical industry precision to the production of medical grade cannabis,” Beckwith said.
Florida voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana last year and the state Legislature recently passed a bill establishing rules for the industry.
A handful of dispensaries have begun popping up around the state but the industry is still in its infancy, with 26,968 patients approved to use the drug as of late last month. State leaders have forecast that the market could grow to 450,000 patients by 2020, making it a $1.5 billion industry.
Florida presents a huge business opportunity for AltMed, one that could be a springboard for even larger ambitions.
“Our mission is to be the world’s widest distributed medical cannabis brand,” Beckwith said.