August 16, 2018 MJ Shareholders
Earlier this year, Gov. Ralph Northam signed medical marijuana legislation that legalized the use of CBD or THC-A oil for the treatment of any diagnosed condition, as determined by a practitioner. Previously, the oil could only be used to treat intractable epilepsy.
Rx Native Pharmaceuticals launched when the Virginia Board of Pharmacy put out a request for action (RFA) for pharmaceutical processors, Chief Operations Officer Chantra Stevenson told Cannabis Dispensary. The board is offering five licenses, one for each district in the state. The award process is merit-based with certain categories broken out on the application, Stevenson said. The board was slated to award licenses in mid-August, but conditional approval has now been pushed to Sept. 25, she added.
Rx Native Pharmaceuticals applied in District 5 for a location in Hampton, along the coast, Stevenson said. “District 5 is, from north to south, kind of the eastern shore of Virginia,” she said. “It has about two million people, and Hampton is the center of District 5. We wanted it to be equal access for everyone who is in that district. Since there is only one [licensee in the district], people will be driving upwards of an hour to get to the retail space, and we wanted to make sure no matter where you are in the district, you would be able to have access to that.”
Additionally, the company’s principals are from Hampton, and Rx Native Pharmaceuticals wants to give back to that community, Stevenson added.
One of Rx Native Pharmaceuticals’ members is the proprietor of Arizona Organix, a vertically integrated medical cannabis business in Phoenix. This expertise will help the company be first to market in Virginia, should it be awarded a license, Stevenson said.
“Our build process and our outfitting of our lab and our cultivation center would have us first to market, within almost a month, due to our modular build as well as our expertise through Arizona Organix,” she said. “I think … a key point to us is that if we were awarded, we would be able to bring product into the market faster than any of our other application competitors.”
Rx Native Pharmaceuticals’ partner facility, Arizona Organix
The sale of flower is not allowed in the state, and the CBD and THC-A oils that are permitted can contain no more than five-percent THC. All products sold must be in oil form, including capsules and topicals, and once patient registration begins, companies like Rx Native Pharmaceuticals will be allowed to grow 12 plants per patient and keep a three-month supply of products on hand, Stevenson said.
And vertical integration means that Rx Native Pharmaceuticals will have to manage the entire seed-to-sale supply chain in-house, she added, which poses both challenges and benefits.
“It’s a large operation with a large amount of startup capital required from the amount of space itself—we have 30,000 square feet currently,” Stevenson said. “The investment we’re looking to make is about $8 million just out of the gate.”
In addition, the company will look to fill about 100 jobs to support the production of its products, should it ultimately receive a license.
“I think one of our biggest challenges would be to fill the jobs necessary for operation—hundreds of jobs, making sure everyone is qualified and [trained],” Stevenson said.
The company strives to hire applicants in the Hampton area, she added, to bring jobs to the region. And being the first cannabis business in the area, Rx Native Pharmaceuticals recognizes the need to invest in employee training to familiarize them with a previously unfamiliar industry.
“From a positive point of view, being vertically integrated means that we are in control of every aspect of production, manufacturing and dispensing, which really allows all the safety and regulation that the state is looking to have, and it [involves] one point person,” Stevenson said.
Should the company be awarded conditional approval at the end of September, it will then go through about a month of background checks and fingerprinting for employees, Stevenson said. The Board of Pharmacy would then offer Rx Native Pharmaceuticals its final license, and state regulations allow businesses up to a year to become operational and begin cultivation.
“We hope to be operational within a month, which means that we would be able to have our first sale by spring of 2019,” Stevenson said. “I think that’s one of our key things we would offer as a company is that first to market availability.”
Long-term, the company wants to meet the need of the medical marijuana population, growing its facility and footprint accordingly, she added.
“We’re trying to emphasize that we are a Virginia-based startup for Virginia,” Stevenson said. “Our group is from Virginia, and we want to be able to provide to the community of Virginia, so I think that really sets us apart from any sort of national chain that’s going to come in and apply.”
Photos courtesy of Rx Native Pharmaceuticals
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