MUV Florida Named Large Business Of The Year

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Not that long ago, founders of MÜV Florida had to convince state leaders that they even were a legitimate business. Bringing a product sold as a pharmaceutical but derided as a repackaged bag of dope, it once seemed an open question when a medical cannabis dispensary could ever legally conduct sales in the Sunshine State.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. On Friday, the Sarasota company won the Large Business of the Year Award from the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. At the business group’s 2021 Small Business Awards, leaders from around the region celebrated and even openly thanked MÜV Florida’s founders for selling its wares here, delivering what finally is widely seen as medicine.

“One of the greatest things about [the award ceremony] was just a validation of our mission,” said Todd Beckwith, director of corporate affairs for MÜV Florida. “We have taken cannabis out of the shadows and into the spotlight.”

It’s not always looked so easy or glamorous. The story of MÜV Florida traces back to 2014, when investors saw a future in a natural product once best known as a street drug. A business plan was set back when Florida voters that year shot down a statewide referendum to legalize medical marijuana. Undeterred, Beckwith and others focused on businesses in other states nd waited patiently until a refined amendment passed two years later.

Since then, the company partnered with Plants of Ruskin to be eligible for Florida’s new licensing requirements, which required any dispensary in business to only market commodities it had cultivated. The business, having prepared for legalization for years, landed an early license to operate in Florida.

Beckwith said the company’s commitment to transparency at a level greater than the industry or regulators even demanded has made a difference in cultivating a professional reputation.

“In the early days of our company, some were less accepting of this as a legitimate industry, but we have just seen a transformation,” he said.

Indeed, the last year has proven a landmark one in many ways. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the company opened 19 new dispensaries in the state of Florida. “The tipping point was when Gov. Ron DeSantis declared medical cannabis an essential business,” Beckwith said. That let the company stay open just like pharmacies even during lockdowns.

The company added 400 new employees, and now has around 800 working in Florida; that’s plenty to qualify in the Chamber’s “Large Business” category for companies of 500 employees or more.

The company also merged last year with Verano Holdings; it still does business as MÜV Florida, a division of Verano. The business even went public on the Canadian Securities Exchange.

The company has continued to stay engaged with lawmakers in Tallahassee, where an effort to cap THC in plants briefly threatened the industry this year but ultimately died. Beckwith remains confidant that if the industry keeps lawmakers educated, the state will remain a good place for medical cannabis companies to do business.

With many of the founding executives still operating in Sarasota County, the local business award meant a tremendous amount internally at MÜV Florida, Beckwith said. “We were founded in Saraosta and many of us still live here, and have lived here for some time,” Beckwith said. “Even at the luncheon several people stopped us and thanked us, saying they had loved ones who benefited greatly from use of our products. That is the ultimate validation for us.”

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