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Medical marijuana testing facility coming to Platte City

Farma will open in former medical building


by Debbie Coleman-Topi
Landmark reporter

A Missouri agency has approved three medical marijuana facilities in this area: a transportation business in Riverside, a laboratory/testing facility in Platte City and a cultivation business in Smithville.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is the state agency that oversees the process to approve and license all forms of medical marijuana businesses. Those include infused products, manufacturing, cultivation, seed-to-sale, testing laboratories, dispensaries and transportation, said Lisa Cox, the agency's communications director.

Hundreds of firms applied to play a role in the legal production and sale of medical marijuana, but, tight regulatory guidelines have vastly limited those able to participate.

“There are many reasons they could be denied,” Cox said and added that those who scored higher in the process but still were denied, can opt for an appeal of the original ruling. Applications were blindly scored by an outside group, meaning those scoring did not have access to identifying information, keeping the process objective, she said.

The Platte City lab testing facility, Farma, was one of 17 companies that applied in that category but the state was only required to approve at least two, Cox said.
Department officials determined that number would be insufficient to adequately test the product and increased the number to 10, she said. Testing labs are responsible for determining tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels, the main ingredient in cannabis. THC triggers the brain to release dopamine, a naturally occurring, feel-good chemical. But the drug also changes the way information is processed, which can impair judgement.

DJ Gehrt, city administrator for Platte City, said city officials decided to set distances between medical marijuana facilities and schools, churches and day cares, at 300 feet, which is the same as those regulating businesses that sell alcohol, “so we don't get into a situation of treating two similar businesses differently.”

The facility will operate in a former medical clinic building, an approximately 6,000-square-foot building near historic downtown Platte City, according to a company spokesman who declined to be named. Although it's early in the process, he said they expect to be in operation by sometime this spring and eventually hope to employ 10-15 people.

The spokesman said he's “very much looking forward to being a part of Platte City” and has enjoyed a welcoming reception by city officials. He said testing facilities play a vital role in the process.

“We view the laboratory as service to the public” since it is charged with “meeting the requirements issued by the state.”

Farma, along with other labs, will ensure efficacy by checking for unwanted components, such as bacteria and foreign matter.

“To us, this is very much the safety piece in this whole process,” Cox said. In fact, a main objective of the statewide agency is to keep communities safe, according to its website.

Riverside city officials are unsure of the fate of a transportation facility approved in the city. Riverside Director of Community Development Mike Duffy said this facility initially intended to be combined with a growing/cultivation operation, but that component was denied. Officials are waiting to hear if the facility still will be opened with only the transportation component. He did not know when he would hear from those who applied, he said.

Three cultivation facilities, approved to operate in Smithville, will each occupy 30,000-square-foot facilities in an already-existing business park, said development director Jack Hendrix. These facilities that will produce medical marijuana will operate in three new buildings in the First Park Subdivision, a commercial area that lines up with the entrance to QuikTrip, Hendrix said. The new facilities will occupy a ten-acre parcel on Park Dive.

An existing road will be extended to accommodate the new structures in the city of about 10,000 residents. Although a time frame for the business's construction and opening has not yet been determined, construction could be complete and the businesses in operation as early as this spring, Hendrix said.

These businesses will operate alongside a warehouse and manufacturing facility currently housed elsewhere in Smithville, Hendrix said. Tornell Inc., which produces a line of veterinary/animal products, is expanding into the industrial park.

The facilities also could house medical marijuana dispensaries. Those awards will not be made until later this week, Hendrix said. However, even if the dispensaries are not approved, he expects the growing facilities to continue as planned.

City officials decided to adopt the state's requirements that the businesses must be no closer than at 1,000-square-feet from churches, day cares and schools. ill A new facility, 100,000 square feet pending application for manufacturing, my guess is they'll still be willing to cultivate.