Down but not out, AltMed vows to continue its fight for medical marijuana

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The sentiment at AltMed, the medical marijuana company based in Lakewood Ranch, is one of disappointment, but not surrender following Tuesday's defeat of Amendment 2, which would have legalized the use of medical marijuana in Florida.

"Although we spent a lot of money up to this point in time, we believe there are so many patients who really need this. I can't tell you how many people have called and visited us. Their stories are amazing and filled with such desperate need," Altmed co-executive chairman Michael Smullen said Wednesday.

The company, which is made up of retired pharmaceutical executives, invested at least $5 million of its own money, purchased and prepared a 20-acre property in rural east Sarasota County and obtained a nursery license for an indoor grow site.

AltMed also developed partnerships with several area physicians and a Canadian medical marijuana company, Vida Cannabis, to collaborate on clinical research, quality assurance and cultivation techniques.

"We're going to hold this thing together and keep our business going whether it takes two years, or sooner. We'll be ready to go," Smullen said.

He and his co-owners are hoping that the Florida Legislature will pass a bill similar to Senate Bill 1030, which Gov. Rick Scott approved offering a lower-psychoactive strain of marijuana known as "Charlotte's Web" to patients suffering primarily from severe epilepsy.

AltMed, Smullen said, is hoping to be one of five companies chosen by the state lottery to be permitted to grow and dispense this type of cannabis in Southwest Florida.

"Right now, the lottery is still being challenged by several nurseries across the state," Smullen said. "But we should know a judicial ruling in the next week or so. I'm hoping this will all be wrapped up in about three weeks and we'll get elected.

"We're proud of what we did, and this setback is not enough to knock us out of our mission," he said. "We're probably more up for the fight than we ever were."

Kathryn Moschella , Lakewood Ranch reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter@MoschellaHerald.