Medical pot dispensary opens in Apollo Beach, first of 25 planned by Sarasota firm

APOLLO BEACH — Three years ago, doctors gave Valerie Hilton of Seffner the grim news: She had stage four liver disease.

Treatment, which included a number of pills, began immediately. A firm believer in holistic medicine, Hilton decided to try cannabis. The results were surprising.

“My doctor didn’t approve of cannabis,” she said. “I was doing it on my own and not telling her and she was wondering why my test results were coming back so amazing.”

Now, Hilton has a place close to home to continue her treatment with the opening Saturday in Apollo Beach of a state-approved medical marijuana dispensing location operated by AltMed. The location off U.S. Highway 41 is the first of 25 the Sarasota-based company plans to open in Florida.

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AltMed chose the Apollo Beach site to serve the many potential customers in fast-growing south Hillsborough County and beyond. So far, it’s the only dispensary between Bradenton and South Tampa. It’s one of four dispensaries in Hillsborough County and the only one outside the Tampa area. The other three are Liberty Health Sciences, 2605 W Swann Ave; Surterra Therapeutics, 2558 E Fowler Ave; and Trulieve, 8701 N Dale Mabry Highway.

The road to a grand opening started in 2014, said AltMed chief executive officer John Tipton.

“It’s nowhere near where it needs to be at, but I think the state has made some pretty good inroads in streamlining the process,” Tipton said. “We’re hoping future dispensaries will be a little easier.”

AltMed plans to open its second dispensary in Sarasota by mid-August and a third one off of North Dale Mabry Highway is in the planning stages, he said. The company so far has 60 strains of cannabis under development,

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