Competition heats up for cannabis manufacturers

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Hundreds of people looking to get into Minnesota's medical marijuana business poured into a meeting in St. Paul Friday to find out exactly what it takes to make the cut.

"You are taking care of patients. They better be able to count on you to produce and deliver a medication in a predictable way," said Manny Munson-Regala, the assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health.

Because so many people were expected to attend, the meeting had to be moved to a larger auditorium at the Minnesota History Center.

Potential applicants like John Packard were confident they have the right infrastructure already in place to create a grow operation to supply patients with marijuana.

"We have quite a few provisions in place to put us ahead of the game for a lot of people," said Packard.

Subcontractor Todd Vitale drove from Madison, Wis. on Friday morning to attend the meeting.

"It sounds like to me the Minnesota Department of Health is willing to work with a 'newby,' if you will, to work on that business life cycle," said Vitale.

"Out of all the applicants, the health department will select two medical marijuana manufacturers, which will deliver medicine to four distribution sites a piece across the state.

And the state isn't just looking for growers -- it is seeking a synergized company that can grow, harvest and refine the drug, measure it, label it and distribute it in pill and oil form.

"All in that process we are assuming you will be doing quality testing to assure there are no contaminates in the medication," said Munson-Regala.

So how does the state weed out the candidates?

It will use a point system.

"Roughly 1,000 points in categories like security, business plan, capitalization, experience with cultivation, experience with manufacturing," he said.

Paul Clark, who is thinking about applying said, "I think somebody that comes in from out-of-state and has a substantial amount of financial backing to weather the storm in the beginning, they are going to be the winners."

No matter where they come from, the business has to be in Minnesota.

There is one other catch-- the non-refundable cost just to apply is $20,000.

Registration opens Sept. 1 and the state will decide which two companies will get the business by Dec. 1.

They will then have seven months to distribute the drugs so patients can get medical marijuana by July 1 of next year.


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