Inside Pr. George’s first marijuana plant set to open this summer

Holistic Industries LLC’s future headquarters is still very much a construction zone.

Inside the gaping Capitol Heights warehouse, it smells of fresh paint— a clean white — and workers scramble to finish the details in what will be Holistic’s new laboratories. Rows of horizontal overhead lights have been hung.

Everything must be pristine before the 72,000-square-foot cultivation and processing facility will be ready for its first crop: medical marijuana.

“Everything is about cleanliness. I mean, we’re making medicine. Organic medicine,” said Josh  Genderson, president and CEO of Holistic Industries, which received one of Maryland’s first medical marijuana cultivation and processing licenses last year.

If everything checks out with state regulators, he expects to begin growing the first plants by the end of July.  With an estimated 3 1/2-month growing period, that would mean its first product would make it to dispensaries by November.

Soon, Genderson said, the large rooms will be filled with rolling benches that will hold plants in each of the three crucial stages of germination before they are processed and prepared for shipping. Genderson expects to have up to 12,000 plants, dwarfing its first operation in the District where cultivators were allowed no  more than 1,000 plants at a time. Every plant must be accounted for from seed to sale using RFID tags, he said.

“The cannabis we make is taxed, regulated, controlled. It’s third-party tested for potency, for mold,” Genderson said.

Part of Holistic’s business model has also been a focus on  hiring experts from other industries to bolster the company’s legitimacy. Holistic’s board of advisers includes Vince Canales, the head of the state’s Fraternal Order of Police, as well as Dr. Donald Wilson, former dean at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Nelson Sabatini, former Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene. The company’s chief scientific officer, Adam Kavalier, has a doctorate in plant chemistry from City University of New York and The New York Botanical Garden and studied cancer bioenergetics at Cornell Medical College.

Holistic also partnered with developer Potomac-based Willco Construction Co.  Inc., which has overseen projects including the Shady Grove Adventist Medical Center in Gaithersburg. Willco owner Richard Cohen, as well as Wilton Lash, owner of D.C.-based waste management company Lucky Dog Industries, are investors in Holistic. In May, Holistic’s facility was sold to an operating subsidiary of San Diego-based Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. (NYSE: IIPR), which expects to enter a long-term, triple-net lease with Holistic Industries.

The warehouse blends in with surrounding buildings in a Prince George’s County business park, though Genderson says there are steel reinforcements hidden within its cinderblock walls to increase security. A small loading dock out back is designed to allow small trucks to drive completely inside so workers can shut a metal garage door behind them. Bug-eyed security cameras stick out of the wall of each room.

He said he plans to hire about 50 people in Maryland by the end of the year, including about 10 people for highly specialized laboratory and cultivation roles, as well as more labor-intensive roles in plant cultivation and facility maintenance.

He declined to be specific about expected margins for the product but said the company subsidizes products marketed for treatment to children with incurable epilepsy. He also said the profits are healthy, but not the size some people might imagine.

Genderson has grown the company’s footprint beyond D.C. and Maryland, receiving a license in June to build a cultivation center in Pennsylvania. He received a license in Massachusetts and expects to open there around the same time as in Maryland. He said this expanding business is a natural extension of his experience running his ever-evolving family business at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, a wine, beer and spirits retailer.

“I was interested in it because I ran a controlled-substance business already,” Genderson said. “I knew I had the wherewithal to do it and, as a business, it was appealing to me. It was new, it was regulated and it was a ground-floor opportunity to try something new.”

Source: Washington Business Journal

Author: Tina Reed

June 28th, 2017