APOLLO BEACH (FOX 13) - In an unassuming yet heavily secured building in Apollo Beach, a new frontier is growing.
Inside a 150,000-square-foot state of the art cultivation facility and lab, there are cannabis plants as far as the eye can see. It's one of many rooms like this in development.
"We're able to cultivate our cannabis indoors. Florida is a particularly harsh climate in terms of temperature and humidity. Both of those are very sensitive to the cannabis plant itself," explained Dr. Chris Witowski, the senior director of research and development at AltMed.
The medical marijuana facility has been expanding since last year. Sarasota based medical marijuana company AltMed partnered with Plants of Ruskin, an established nursery in Hillsborough County, to create AltMed Florida.
"They had a nearly 100-year history in the agribusiness sector and brought the agriculture expertise that made a perfect marriage with us," said Todd Beckwith of AltMed.
The company had been waiting for years for medical marijuana to be approved in Florida. They began operating in Arizona to perfect their business model. Then in 2016, Florida voters gave the green light.
"We're overwhelmed with the excitement of patients calling us every day," said Beckwith.
Florida bans smoking medical marijuana, so the company has come up with alternatives through their MüV product line.
"We have a number of unique products that no other licensed holder will be offering, including our inhaler, our patent-pending transdermal gel, and a soon to hit the market, 72-hour sustain release transdermal patch," continued Beckwith.
Michael Smullen, the co-founder and CEO of AltMed, said products like these would have helped his daughter, who struggled with epilepsy as a child.
"Had medical cannabis been an option that was available at that point and time, there is no question in my mind that I would have wanted to do it," said Smullen.
The next step is getting those products to patients across the state.
"Working with regulators to make sure we can launch in a timely fashion," offered Dr. Witowski.
It's on track to becoming Florida's next booming industry.
"Over the course of this year, we'll probably have six to eight dispensaries open," said Smullen.
"You have agriculture, you have retail, you have health care. We're really a mix of all of those and the next generation of agribusiness," added Beckwith.
AltMed expects their dispensary in Apollo Beach will open in the coming months. They’re keeping patients posted on their MüV website.