Voters in Florida will decide once again this November whether to legalize full-strength medical marijuana. But there is a type of marijuana that has been legal for the past two years -- it just hasn’t been available until now.
- Exclusive look inside a facility growing "Charlotte's Web"
- Facility awaiting final approval from state to produce cannabis oil from plants
The first crop of that legal strain of medical marijuana in Florida is now being harvested, and doctors are ready to start prescribing it. Wellness Centers are opening this summer to distribute cannabis as medicine.
Photojournalist Jeff Joiner and I worked for months to get inside a grow facility working to bring cannibis as medicine to the market. For security purposes, the locations of the facilities are kept secret. We agreed to keep it that way in order to get an exclusive look inside.
First, we had to ditch the news vehicle, as it would attract too much attention. Then, we drove to a location in the middle of nowhere in Tallahassee in an unmarked car.
We were greeted by an armed guard at a locked gate, who took us to another armed guard and another locked gate. Behind the barbed wire, we finally saw what they were protecting.
Inside the grow facility was a forest of green -- marijuana plants in all stages of growth.
Susan Driscoll, the President of Surterra Therapeutics, led the tour.
“We can make a difference in this world, so when Surterra had to the opportunity to help the patients of Florida, I had to be part of it, “ said Driscoll.
All the plants growing inside the Tallahassee nursery are low in THC, the ingredient that produces a “high.” The plants are also high in CBD.
In other words, this is “Charlotte’s Web,” the non-euphoric variety of marijuana commonly prescribed to children suffering from cancer and seizures.
“It’s very exciting,“ said Driscoll. “It’s like we’re on the 1-yard-line and ready to get that touchdown. And the touchdown is getting the products to the patients.”
The mother plants are kept in the first room, along with the young plants under white grow lights. They grow for 28 to 30 days at a precise temperature and humidity level.
In the next room, under yellow lights, the mature cannabis plants are ready for harvest. Each plant is meticulously bar coded and tracked.
Tracking of the plant means if something goes wrong and there is mold or contamination in the cannabis oil, exactly where that plant came from can be traced back.
Once the marijuana has been ground down and dried out, it is ready to be turned into cannabis oil. Surterra is waiting for the final approval from the state to do just that -- the last step before patients get the medicine they have been waiting for.
Friday night, our special report on medical marijuana continues, with details on a Hillsborough County grow facility and a Wellness Center planned for Tampa. We’ll also tell you about doctors getting certified to prescribe marijuana.