MedPharm is Iowa's first medical marijuana facility

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DES MOINES, Iowa (WOI) -- MedPharm Iowa is the only marijuana facility in the state.

It's modeled after the Colorado manufacturer and the project just got started in December.

Construction is underway right now to transform the building into a multi-million dollar cultivation operation. An army of employees are working hard to renovate the building so Iowans can have access to legal medical marijuana in just a few short months.

"We've had 30-40-50 workers here on site really every single day since we got underway in December very shortly after we got licensed," said Lucas Nelson, general manager of outsourcing for Kemin Industries.

It's a little hard to envision now, but come December, the old warehouse will be re-purposed and home of Iowa's only medical cannabidiol manufacturer, MedPharm Iowa.

"All the extraction, all the quality control, and assurance we do, all the formulation will be done right on this site," said Nelson.

Lucas Neson is with Kemin Industries, which is the company who is leasing MedPharm the land. They're also helping with plant expertise. They say this facility will be state of the art and better for growing it than a greenhouse.

"The parameters that we are growing these plants under are really dialed into very precise conditions to survive and yield the oil we need them to," said Nelson.

In the facility, the marijuana plants will be grown, dried, extracted and tested. Then they will be turned into soft gels, oils and other products.

"This is absolutely a science," said Nelson. "The products these patients are taking should fell very safe and very confident that they will deliver the benefits we expect them to."

But MedPharm says those benefits could be limited in the grand scheme of things.They say it's because lawmakers didn't pass legislation to keep Iowa up to speed with the rest of the country.

"Patients walk into dispensaries here in December and try their first products and all of a sudden aren't receiving the benefits they need because of this THC cap," said Nelson. "Or patients that would otherwise benefit from this type of treatment are not even able to access it in the first place because their condition doesn't qualify."

Senator Brad Zaun is still trying to pass legislation even though the more expansive version of the bill is dead.

"If you recall what we did last year it was done in the last minute," said Sen. Zaun, R-Urbandale. "I am going to talk the majority leader to see if we can find a vehicle to make some positive changes in regard to the cannabis law that we passed last year which was a good first step."

Senator Zaun says he hopes to add medical conditions for Iowans to apply for CBD oil and raise the THC levels through an appropriations bill.

"I hope the legislature does decide to create the structure around this program that will really be able to allow the folks like us to deliver the benefits to patients," said Nelson. "And make this program sustain for long-term here in Iowa."

MedPharm has five locations for dispensaries in mind. Next week they will announce who qualified and accepted.

Those cities up for dispensaries are Sioux city, Windsor Heights, Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Davenport.The deadline for a dispensary license is April 1.

View the original story on WOI's website.