First seeds planted in giant Apollo Beach medical marijuana warehouse

By Josh Rojas, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 21, 2017, 6:14 AM EST

Plants of Ruskin, doing business as AltMed Florida, planted 650 medical marijuana seeds on Monday after the Florida Department of Health recently granted permission for the company to begin growing cannabis, according to CEO John Tipton.

  • Apollo Beach facility currently 50,000 sq. ft.
  • Will expand next year to 150,000 sq. ft.
  • One of only 13 nurseries statewide granted licenses

“We decided to go with seed to make sure that we weren’t bringing any type of disease or anything into the facility,” Tipton said. “By starting with seeds, that extends the grow period a little bit. So, we’ll probably have our first plants in two to two-and-a-half months.”

AltMed Florida is operating out of a giant warehouse located at 5909 Highway 41 N. in Apollo Beach. It’s surrounded by barbed wire fencing and there’s a guard shack at the entrance.

Photo: Josh Rojas, staff

There’ll be three phases of construction on the state-of-the-art facility that begins with 50,000 square feet and next year expands to 150,000 square feet.

Each of the seven flower rooms has 150 grow lights and can handle 1,200 plants. Tipton said there’s a step-by-step approval process they must complete, and they hope to begin selling medical marijuana products to patients in late March.

“We have been approved to begin growing. Once we’re ready for our first harvest, the state has to come back in, re-inspect and give us the authority to begin processing,” he said. “Once we have that authority, then it’s only a few week period between processing and having product for the patients.”

Tipton said their first dispensary will be located at the Apollo Beach warehouse and they’re currently negotiating with Sarasota County to open their second dispensary. AltMed Florida expects to have at least six dispensaries open by the end of next year.

“We are actively looking in Pinellas and we feel like we’re fairly close to having a lease on a property there,” said Tipton. “We’re also looking for another location in Hillsborough. We are looking in the Miami-Dade area and then, obviously, Orlando as well.”

Plants of Ruskin is one of only 13 nurseries statewide that were granted licenses to cultivate cannabis. The Dickman Family founded Plants of Ruskin, and Tipton explains how the fourth-generation tomato farmers got into the marijuana business.

“One of our owners (Glenn Dickman) had cancer when he was in this 20’s and had actually his doctor, even back in the 70’s, tell him that he needed to find marijuana. So, he’s always been a believer,” he said. “Some of us it took a little longer, but when you start doing the research and see how it is truly helping patients, it became a no-brainer for us.”

Tipton said they’ve invested about $15 million into the medical marijuana business.