Health

Iowa medical marijuana company to launch next month with one product

Iowa Relief in Cedar Rapids will make tincture, with plans to expand later

Work continues July 17 on the Iowa Relief site in southwest Cedar Rapids. The medical marijuana manufacturer plans to begin selling one product — a tincture — next month for registered participants in the state’s medical cannabis program. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Work continues July 17 on the Iowa Relief site in southwest Cedar Rapids. The medical marijuana manufacturer plans to begin selling one product — a tincture — next month for registered participants in the state’s medical cannabis program. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Relief is set to come on line later this summer with just one new product for the state’s medical cannabidiol program: a tincture aimed at helping Iowans who rely on cannabidiol products for their chronic and debilitating conditions.

The Cedar Rapids medical marijuana manufacturer is the second of its kind in the state, licensed by the Iowa Department of Public Health to grow cannabis and create products from its oil.

Its products will become available Aug. 15 to more than 2,900 registered users in Iowa.

Iowa Relief officials intend to release more cannabidiol products at an undisclosed time, but opted to focus on one formulation leading up to their launch next month, said Patrick Doherty, senior operations associate of Acreage Holdings, the New Jersey-based cannabis startup that owns Iowa Relief.

“When we have our facility up and running, it won’t be a challenge producing multiple products at once,” Doherty said during a phone interview with The Gazette. “But with the timeline we are operating under and wanting to make sure there’s no issues with product getting through and approved at the testing lab, we thought that was the smartest route to take.”

Officials with the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed the only product the company plans to release in its launch is a high-cannabidiol, or CBD, formulation tincture.

“We thought the market was looking for a tincture,” Doherty said.

Harsh weather caused construction delays

An extension of Iowa Relief’s initial launch date of July 1 was granted by the Department of Public Health earlier this year. In May, Doherty said harsh winter temperatures and other weather-related complications delayed construction of the Cedar Rapids facility.

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The company officially broke ground at the site last Dec. 13.

Any further delay could result in action by the department. But Doherty said operations at the Cedar Rapids facility, 1420 26th Ave. Ct. SW, are underway, and public health officials anticipate Iowa Relief will meet the August deadline.

‘not concerned’ about tincture-only offering

In its application to the state, Iowa Relief officials proposed four products for the market:

• Liquid

• Tincture

• Capsule

• Cream

“We are focused on ensuring that products are safe and effective, and we are not concerned that they’ve chosen to learn our testing and data system processes with one product before expanding to others,” Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Polly Carver-Kimm said in a statement. “We anticipate that they will expand their product line quickly during their first year of production.

“Each manufacturer may decide its own product development strategy, and ultimately the market will determine the success of those strategies,” Carver-Kimm said.

By contrast, the first company awarded a license to manufacture in the state — Des Moines-based MedPharm Iowa — introduced three different products and four formulations with various proportions of CBD to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, when it launched last December.

Iowa Relief’s tincture will be sent to the State Hygienic Lab for testing — a required step before products are released to the public — in the near future, but Doherty said a date has not been set.

Its products will be available at five dispensaries — in Davenport, Waterloo, Windsor Heights, Council Bluffs and Sioux City.

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Doherty said the company has not estimated projected revenue for its first quarter in the program, in part because company officials haven’t “established our projections for a retail price.”

State already has inspected new facility

Iowa Relief’s first crop was developed using cloned plants, rather than seedlings. There are seven employees working at the Cedar Rapids facility, but there are plans to expand staff in the near future, Doherty said.

There’s still work being conducted on the property itself, but operations have been underway at the Cedar Rapids site since May 23, company and public health officials confirmed.

On that date, Department of Public Health officials conducted their first inspection of the Cedar Rapids facility, which included checks of the building’s security as well as growth and cultivation areas.

State officials also reviewed Iowa Relief’s standard operating procedures for security, inventory control, cultivation and record-keeping.

“We expect to complete the rest of the inspection in early August,” according to a statement from the department. “This will include extraction, harvest, packaging and labeling.”

The city of Cedar Rapids — which supported Iowa Relief’s move to the city — also issued the company a temporary certificate of occupancy on the building in May.

Iowa medical cannabis approach is ‘smart’

The upcoming launch follows Gov. Kim Reynolds’ veto of House File 732, which sought to expand the program by removing the THC cap on products and instead placing limits on the amount of medical cannabis that can be prescribed.

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Doherty said he thinks Iowa’s approach to the program allows state officials to understand what Iowans are looking for and to gather physician and health provider feedback on the products.

“I think it’s smart,” Doherty said.

Iowa Relief officials elected to operate in the state’s program “with the full understanding of what the program’s structure was,” Doherty said.

“Our belief is that under the current rules and regulations, we can positively impact people’s lives across the state,” he said. “We’re hopefully to be part of the program if and when it does expand and have the experience to educate and operate in any way the state would approve.”

• Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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