ALACHUA, Fla. – For 35 years, Chestnut Hill Farm has harvested fruit and flowers -- but now, it’s turning its focus to medicinal marijuana.
The Alachua County farm began dispensing medicinal marijuana to patients this week and gave the media a rare tour inside.
From harvesting cannabis and extracting cannabis oil, to quality control and bottling, the entire four-month process for each plant happens at the farm.
Robert Wallace, the president of CHT Medical, said he believes this is the new frontier of medicine.
“I got very interested in the medical side of it and the number of different illnesses that could be treated with cannabis, where there was a really positive effect for patients,” Wallace said.
The dispensary was built in the last year, and it's only been open for about a week, but its hope is to become one of the dispensaries that helps many people with various illnesses.
Though medicinal cannabis is legal in Florida, there is still opposition. Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Orange Park are just a few of the local cities that are considering a moratorium on dispensaries.
Local attorney Randy Reep said that whenever there is a new law, change can be challenging.
“Think back to when seat belts were suddenly required administratively,” Reep said. “There were changes, but they were restrictive. Now, you are lifting restrictions and governments, law enforcement facilities trying to come to terms with that are extraordinarily challenged by the new frontier.”
Alachua County prepared months before the dispensary opened this week. Law enforcement personnel in the county see medicinal marijuana as any other prescription drug, and officers can even verify if a person should have it.
“Either through our computers, or our dispatch centers, we will have that information available to us 24-7,” Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Lt. Brandon Kutner said.
Back at the dispensary, Wallace, who is not only the president of the company, but also a cancer survivor, said he hopes this new way of medicine will make life better for patients who need help.
“It has incredible opportunity in opioid overdose and addiction problems with cancer, both as a prevention and a treatment for helping people go through chemo,” said Wallace, who lost both of his parents to cancer. “I have heard story after story about people positively affected using cannabis.”
Wallace plans to open a Gainesville dispensary in a couple of months.