LAKEWOOD RANCH -- AltMed, a new company headquartered in Lakewood Ranch and founded by former pharmaceutical executives, has appointed two physicians to lead its science and quality controls.
Dr. Valerie Riddle, who received her medical degree from the University of South Florida, is board-certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases and will lead the medical research and science-related aspects of the company.
Dr. Matthew Nessetti, medical director at All Care Medical Center in Lakewood Ranch, Venice, Sarasota and
Bradenton, will be responsible for ensuring quality control for AltMed's operations, which is a requirement of the Compassionate Care law.
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"We need to get his input now as we develop procedures for our laboratory and educational materials. He'll help us shape the direction of our company and shape our culture here at AltMed," said Michael Smullen, founder and executive chairman of AltMed.
"We are very, very close to actually breaking ground on our first facility after we worked out some modifications. We are getting ready to pave roads and set up electricity there," said Smullen, who, along with a partner, has invested $5 million to supply Floridians with a non-psychoactive form of medical marijuana called "Charlotte's Web," which doesn't induce the "high" associated with recreational cannabis but is used to treat debilitating illnesses and seizures particularly prevalent in children with severe epilepsy and patients with Parkinson's disease.
The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, mandates growing, processing and dispensing facilities be on the same site, so AltMed plans to make distribution convenient.
"Since nurseries aren't in populated zones, we are looking at developing a free transportation plan delivering to patients in Tampa, throughout Hillsborough County, all the way down to Naples and in between," AltMed President and CEO David Wright said. "Under the proposed rules, we are allowed to distribute a 90-day supply of medicine to patients."
The proposed AltMed facility, which intends to grow eight to 10 different strains of cannabis to treat illnesses from cancer to glaucoma and pain, will encompass more than 1,000 acres, housing a 35,000-square-foot indoor grow room with a testing laboratory and oil-processing plant, along with a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse. Wright said the company intends to build an additional 25,000-square-foot indoor grow facility every year for the next four years in a rural Sarasota nursery 10 miles east of Interstate 75 on Fruitville Road.
The start of construction follows zoning approval granted in August by Sarasota County for AltMed to establish a growing, processing, and dispensing operation for the production and distribution of medical marijuana.
Should Florida voters approve Amendment 2 on the Nov. 4 ballot, clearing the way for dispensing medical cannabis with higher psychoactive elements, then companies such as AltMed are prepared to grow all sorts of strains.
"It's my understanding that Amendment 2 would supersede the current legislation. We are totally focused on medical cannabis and will produce all sorts of strains because the current ones are very limited," Wright said. "There's no reason why certain patients should have the medicine they need and other people be excluded. We are in the business of providing high-quality medical cannabis to all patients in Florida who need it."