Five approved dispensing organizations serve different regions in Florida. Alpha Surterra in Hillsborough County is the designated dispensary for the Southwest Region.

You could drive past it every day for years and never even suspect that it’s there – on most commutes it would be barely noticeable. The small building blends in almost perfectly with the landscape and doesn’t appear to pose a threat. What’s so ironic is that it’s in a residential neighborhood.

Perhaps that was the intention from the beginning, for this state sanctioned medicinal marijuana grow house.

Low grade THC is cultivated there for terminally ill patients.

The little farm, located in Hillsborough county, is so secluded and so secretly guarded that the address for it cannot be found within the documents where it should be listed on the Florida Department of Health website.

What you’ll find instead are pages of documents with redacted information. Try to find the application for the grower and what you’ll find in it’s place is entire portions of paperwork which are completely blacked out online. The only address you’ll find is that of the nursery partnering with Surterra Therapeutics in this venture, which is Alpha Foliage, located in Homestead.

Of course, the question on a lot of peoples’ minds is why is there so much secrecy surrounding this grow house?

That’s what a Bay Area mother of three wanted to know. She questions where the transparency in this whole matter is. With Florida’s public records laws, one would think that  applications such this should be open for the public to view.

Since this was a bill signed by the governor allowing this particular marijuana to be grown, why are the details being kept hidden?

Ellen Snelling wanted to know the answer, not because she wished to broadcast the location or put anyone at risk, but because she wanted to be an informed citizen. When she couldn’t get any answers, she called 8 on Your Side for help.

Channel 8 began a long, drawn-out, arduous process trying to find the location. It began with multiple phone calls to the company, where the news agency was told repeatedly that releasing this data would put the company’s safety at risk.

After much digging and investigation the news team discovered the tiny white building which they thought couldn’t possibly be it. It seemed too small and unassuming. Sometimes hiding something in plain sight is the best option. Several neighbors had no idea what it was. Others began to figure it out when multiple TECO trucks showed up in large numbers to power the little, but mighty hydroponic equipment.

The fully functional operation has been in existence since February. There are also other pieces of equipment on the side of the building, indicating hydroponics of some type are inside.

 Five approved dispensing organizations serve different regions in Florida. Alpha Surterra in Hillsborough County is the designated dispensary for the Southwest Region.

There’s also a barbed wire fence around the property with a double gate and the whole operation comes complete with armed guards.

Some people who work in the area have also figured it out. Surterra Therapeutics cites safety and security of its staff and the location as a reason for not providing an exact address. Other grow house endeavors around the country, a spokesperson noted, have been receiving threats.

So, the company originally declined to provide any information about the geographical location of the site. However, when 8 on Your Side discovered the grow house, the company did confirm that this was it.

The requirements for Florida’s pot cultivation farms are strict, heavily regulated and the list of prerequisites is lengthy. For instance, in order to have been considered for the cultivation site, one rule is that the nursery would’ve had to have met the requirements of being in business for more than 30 years. No “start-up” businesses are allowed.

There are more rules when it comes to Florida’s medicinal marijuana program. Terminally ill patients seeking medical marijuana must have had at least a 3-month relationship with their doctor to be considered for a cannabis prescription. There are currently fewer than 100 doctors in the entire state who have signed up to be a part of this program.

Their names, addresses, and locations are provided on the website from the Florida Department of Health-Office of Compassionate Use.

 There are doctors from Tampa Bay on the list, including physicians in Clearwater, Wesley Chapel and Brooksville to name just a few. These doctors must also complete a course in order to be able to prescribe the medical marijuana. It’s only after these requirements are met, that a terminally ill patient may then conduct business at the dispensary in the USF-area on Fowler Avenue at the Surterra Wellness Center, which has already obtained its business license, but isn’t yet in operation.

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