LAKEWOOD RANCH -- If Amendment 2 passes in November, Florida patients, including those in Manatee and Sarasota counties who are qualified to use medical marijuana for a variety of serious illnesses, will have the option to choose cannabis products that do not require smoking.
Alternative high-quality delivery treatments would be available in the form of gums, oral sprays and chocolate products as a result of an exclusive licensing agreement with a Lakewood Ranch medical cannabis company.
AltMed LLC, founded by a group of pharmaceutical-industry executives who seek to specialize in the development, production and dispensing of medical cannabis, has signed an agreement with Bhang Corp., a national brand of medical cannabis products, to bring Florida patients new and innovative therapies that are easier to use than smoking.
Bhang, with corporate offices in Florida, would produce and distribute an expanded product line solely for AltMed patients in Florida.
AltMed's president and chief executive officer, David Wright, said the shift
to smokeless treatments is a market-driven phenomenon in light of anti-smoking sentiment, in addition to medical cannabis being a medicine which is not generally smoked. Convenience, Wright said is also factor for introducing alternatives to the market.
"If you have a spasticity disorder, such as Lou Gherig's disease, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease, you don't have full control, so it's much easier to spray or chew gum and more convenient for the patient if they're dosing three times a day," Wright said. "It's easier to take a dose and put it in your pocket."
Wright said what separates the company from others is the quality of its products.
"Bhang has developed technologies that allow them to ensure that each bite of medical cannabis will have the same in amount it," he said. "It is very controlled."
Bhang's president, Scott Van Rixel, said of AltMed: "With its pharmaceutical industry experience, its medical research team, and advanced business structure, we see them as the emerging leaders."
In the past several weeks, AltMed also signed a strategic alliance with a Canadian cannabis firm, Vida Cannabis of Nova Scotia, to collaborate on clinical research and quality assurance in the cultivation of pharmaceutical-grade medical marijuana.
In addition to setting its sights on the passage of Amendment 2, AltMed is gearing up to become one of only five companies in the state -- chosen by a lottery -- conducted by the Florida Department of Health allowing for the growing, processing and dispensing of a low-TCH form of marijuana known as "Charlotte's Web," used to treat severe epilepsy, Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott approved Senate Bill 1030, the "Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014," authorizing usage of the low-THC drug for specified patients. "THC" or tetrahydrocannabinol is the active ingredient in marijuana that causes euphoric sensations.
Despite several lawsuits filed by Florida farms challenging the Department of Health's rules for Charlotte's Web and the uncertainty of Amendment 2's passage, AltMed is moving forward with plans to build a manufacturing and dispensing facility on the grounds of a former nursery in eastern Sarasota County.
"We're actually in the process of having a road built right now leading to the facility, and we've just given the go-ahead to our civil engineer to do the site plan," Wright said. "We'll start construction work and begin pouring the concrete on Nov. 5, provided all goes well."
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.