Health

Medical marijuana CEO thinks Iowa will expand law

New Cedar Rapids manufacturing plant to be modeled after Pennsylvania facility

A 30,000-square-foot medical marijuana processing facility in Sinking Spring, Penn. was under construction in 2017. Iowa Relief LLC, a subsidiary of Acreage Holdings, will model its new Cedar Rapids plant after the Pennsylvania facility, chief executive Kevin Murphy said. (Photo by Acreage Holdings).
A 30,000-square-foot medical marijuana processing facility in Sinking Spring, Penn. was under construction in 2017. Iowa Relief LLC, a subsidiary of Acreage Holdings, will model its new Cedar Rapids plant after the Pennsylvania facility, chief executive Kevin Murphy said. (Photo by Acreage Holdings).
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The leader of a New Jersey-based company awarded a state license to manufacture medical marijuana in Cedar Rapids says it expects Iowa will expand its program like other states have.

If and when Iowa raises its limit on tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and opens eligibility to a wider variety of patients, Acreage Holdings and its subsidiary Iowa Relief LLC will be in prime position to increase sales, said Kevin Murphy, chief executive officer for Acreage Holdings and owner of Iowa Relief.

“It’s not all about making money out of the gates,” Murphy said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Once Iowa discovers the THC component is not a bad component, but a helpful component, we hope to see these (regulations) open up to include more people for more benefit.”

Iowa Relief, last week awarded the second of two state licenses to manufacture medical marijuana, plans to model a new plant at 1420 26th Ave. Court SW in Cedar Rapids off a 30,000-square-foot facility in Sinking Spring, Penn., which was built and under operation just six months after Acreage Holdings got a state license there last summer, Murphy said.

The national company, which grows, processes or dispenses cannabis in 16 states, plans to start its Cedar Rapids facility with 10,000 square feet that can triple in size in the same building, according to a 783-page application the Iowa Department of Public Health released to the public this week.

More than 200 pages of the application were blacked out, with Iowa Relief saying the company needed the information kept secret to protect security at the plant and to keep competitors from stealing trade secrets. The company redacted information on labeling, transportation of plants and medicine, growing environment and forms and quantities of the medication.

Iowa Relief plans to hire about 20 full-time employees to work at the Cedar Rapids plant, which will produce products that include capsules, tinctures and creams, Murphy said.

Iowa Relief joins MedPharm Iowa, of Des Moines, as the two state licensed manufacturers.

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MedPharm, which got its license in December, must have products ready to sell by Dec. 1. Iowa Relief has until July 1, 2019.

Products will be sold at five licensed dispensaries in Waterloo, Davenport, Council Bluffs, Windsor Heights and Sioux City.

MedPharm on Monday welcomed Iowa Relief, saying in a news release it hoped the two companies could work together to push for an expanded medical marijuana program.

Murphy echoed that spirit of competitive cooperation.

“In this business, given all of the challenges we face, we look at our relationship with all our competitors, to some degree, as we’re in it together,” he said.

Medical marijuana has a lot of naysayers, Murphy said. He used to be one of them.

The former money manager joined Acreage in 2014, three years after the company started getting involved in the cannabis industry. Since then, he’s seen medical marijuana help patients with stage 4 cancer and other serious diseases, he said. Murphy also sees medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids, without similar risks of addiction and overdose.

Iowa Relief plans to hold educational seminars for Iowa health care providers and public events or workshops, the company’s application states.

“This is not about the ‘Reefer Madness’ of years ago,” Murphy said. “We’re all about providing doseable, clean medicine.”

In 2017, the Iowa Legislature expanded the state’s highly restrictive medical cannabis program to widen the range of qualifying medical conditions and increase the availability of the products. Conditions currently allowed under the program can include cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures; AIDS or HIV, Crohn’s disease; ALS, Parkinson’s disease; other terminal diseased and untreatable pain.

Patients must obtain a state registration card to purchase the products.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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