Pubdate: Thu, 09 Oct 2014
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2014 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Author: Michael Pollick


LAKEWOOD RANCH - Altmed LLC managers expect to not just be growing 
marijuana but turning it into Bhang branded chocolates, chewing gum 
and oral spray if voters ratify the medical marijuana amendment on Nov. 4.

The Lakewood Ranch-based start-up said Thursday that it has signed a 
licensing deal giving Altmed the exclusive Florida rights to an 
already well-received product line.

Bhang's cannabis-infused sweets are one of the most recognizable 
brands in states that allow medical marijuana sales to qualified 
patients. Licensing deals are in place for seven states.

"You can walk into more dispensaries in America and find Bhang than 
any other branded product," said Bhang CEO Scott Van Rixel.

The company formerly created confections of its own, but is now more 
of a licensing company than anything else, Van Rixel said.

"Operations are run out of Miami," he said. "We can do that because 
Bhang Corp. doesn't actually handle cannabis. We provide marketing, 
technology, formulation, package design, tactical, legal assistance."

Bhang products are available in more than 1,000 dispensaries in 
California, the first state to allow sales of medical marijuana products.

To make the Bhang deal a reality, AltMed plans to lease a 
30,000-square-foot building in eastern Sarasota County, now being 
purchased by the company's owners, CEO David Wright said.

The industrial-park building, at 1451 Global Court, will house 
AltMed's offices, the Bhang manufacturing plant and possibly a 
patient-care center, Wright said.

Although the purchase of the industrial park building and planned 
lease-back appears to raise AltMed's risk exposure, Wright said the 
founders are not concerned.

"It is being purchased by one of our partners. He believes it to be a 
good investment without Amendment 2," Wright said.

This is the second big-name alliance AltMed has announced in less than a month.

Neither deal is predicated on statewide voter approval of the 
amendment, but both become much more valuable if the amendment is passed.

In late September, AltMed announced a strategic alliance with Vida 
Cannabis, a Toronto-based company on track to become one of Canada's 
largest growers and processors of medical marijuana.

Bhang, known for its cannabis-infused chocolates, says its newer oral 
spray and chewing-gum products already have been launched in a number 
of markets.

This latest agreement gives AltMed exclusive Florida production and 
distribution rights for Bhang products, a lineup that is likely to 
also include cannabis-infused creams and lotions, Wright said.

"If Amendment 2 doesn't pass, we will rework our business plan," the 
CEO said. "There are still some other opportunities here for us to look at."

Waiting for litigation

Meanwhile, AltMed awaits the outcome of litigation in Tallahassee 
that has stalled the Florida Department of Health's implementation of 
a state law approving non-euphoric marijuana extracts' use by people 
with epilepsy.

Until the litigation filed by three groups is settled, AltMed cannot 
apply for one of five statewide licenses for the non-euphoric cannabis product.

In the meantime, AltMed is proceeding with site work five miles east 
of its future offices and manufacturing plant on an initial 
25,000-square-foot growing center being completed in a joint venture 
with a long-established Sarasota County nursery.

AltMed's five-year plan calls for a 300,000-square-foot growing 
operation, including 150,000 square feet of indoor growing space and 
150,000 square feet of greenhouse space, Wright said.

"It is important to be positioned," said Wright, whose background 
includes work as a high-ranking executive at MedImmune, a 
biopharmaceutical company acquired by drug giant AstraZeneca in 2007 
for $15.6 billion.

"It takes a while to make things happen."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom