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LeafLine Labs to manufacture medical marijuana in Cottage Grove

Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger announces the two entities that will be regulated by the state to manufacture medical marijuana. He is pictured with representatives of LeafLine Labs (left) and Minnesota Medical Solution. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)1 / 4
Leafline Labs’ Dr. Gary Starr (left) and Andrew Bachman talk Monday about their firm’s selection as one of two entities that won state approval to manufacture medical marijuana in Minnesota. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss) 2 / 4
Dr. Gary Starr of LeafLine Labs says on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, that his company will break ground on a medical marijuana production facility in Cottage Grove, Minn., this month. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)3 / 4
Leafline Labs in Cottage Grove will be one of two entities allowed to manufacture medical marijuana in Minnesota when it becomes legal in 2015, the state health commissioner announced Monday. (Submitted illustration) 4 / 4

LeafLine Labs in Cottage Grove will be one of two entities allowed to manufacture medical marijuana in Minnesota when it becomes legal in 2015, the state health commissioner announced Monday.

LeafLine Labs — formed by several members of the Bachman floral franchise but not affiliated with Bachman Inc. — and the Otsego-based Minnesota Medical Solution project were the two manufacturers chosen after the state waded through 12 applications.

They will be responsible for growing the state’s supply of medical cannabis, processing it into pill or liquid form and distributing it through a network of eight distribution sites established around the state.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger made the selections with recommendations from an 11-member state review panel, adding that it was a unanimous decision.  

He said the two manufacturers were selected based on their commitment to the patient experience, technical proficiency in cultivation and the formulation of medicine, rigorous safety and security standards, and sound business planning and resources.

“The leadership team has all of the various components; medical components, business components, education components,” Ehlinger said in an interview of the LeafLine Labs project. “The partnership they have with the manufacturers in Connecticut is solid and they have the expertise and the business model.”

LeafLine Labs has partnered with Connecticut-based Theraplant, that state’s leading producer of medical marijuana, and is contracting with Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies for construction.

LeafLine Labs plans to open an initial distribution center in Eagan on July 1, 2015, with other locations in Hibbing, St. Cloud and St. Paul before or by July 1, 2016.

“LeafLine Labs started with a committed search to find research-based treatments — including medical cannabis — that could bring comfort to people and, perhaps someday, even cure some medical conditions that Minnesotans live and die with,” said Dr. Andrew Bachman, co-founder of LeafLine Labs. “We are focused on bringing safe, consistent and high-quality medical cannabis to the people of Minnesota.

The city of Cottage Grove was first approached by LeafLine Labs representatives earlier this year after co-founder Dr. Gary Starr said an “exhausted search” was conducted. He said the city was ultimately chosen because of the support shown by both the community and local representatives.

“We are honored by our selection,” he said. “This is a monumental day for patients in the state of Minnesota.”

The two-phase project, which was tweaked in November, will be constructed on 24 acres of land adjacent to Renewal by Andersen in the Business Park, west of Highway 61, with another 20 contiguous acres for expansion. Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey said the sale of the land should be complete by Thursday, with groundbreaking expected to occur yet this month.

The first phase includes construction of a 41,000-square-foot, one-level building where medical marijuana will be manufactured by July 2015. The second phase includes an expansion to approximately 160,000 square feet. By year three, LeafLine Labs expects to employ about 150 full-time employees.

Starr said the construction phase expects to employ over 100 workers.

“I think this is just fantastic,” Bailey said. “It’s very exciting to bring a new business to town that will provide great jobs and a great tax base. Obviously it’s going to help a lot of people with the fact that it’s going to be used to manufacture medical marijuana.”

In May, Minnesota became the 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bipartisan bill that allows extremely ill patients to use medical marijuana if it is prescribed by a physician. Minnesota’s law is considered to be among the strictest in the nation, due in part to a defined list of illnesses it can be used to treat and the fact that it only will be permitted in pill or liquid form.

Assistant Commissioner Manny Munson-Regala estimated that the number of patients registering to receive medical marijuana will be gradual at first, roughly about 5,000, but could rise to as many as 15,000 as the implementation process becomes more refined.

Each applicant seeking one of the two licenses to manufacture medical marijuana had to pay $20,000 for an application fee and submit its manufacturing and development proposal for state review.

Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, who was supportive of both the state’s medical marijuana legislation and the LeafLine Labs project, said the state’s decision begins to provide relief to sick patients.

“This is great not just for Cottage Grove but for the entire state and the area. That’s what’s most important,” he said. “And what I’m most happy about is we are going to be able to show Minnesota that this is how it is done safely, and the fears of the past of marijuana are not going to be realized. This is medicine, this isn’t recreational. This is helping people and it’s morally right.”

Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use

Patients interested must be certified by their physician or health care provider as having a specific condition identified under state law that is allowed to be treated by medical marijuana. Those conditions include:

  • Cancer associated with severe and chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting or severe wasting
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Tourette’s syndrome.
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Terminal illness, with a life expectancy of less than one year, if the illness or treatment produces severe and chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting or severe wasting
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