The only company licensed to produce medical marijuana in Iowa is moving forward with the construction of the facility where the plants will be grown and the cannabidiol oil will be extracted.

MedPharm is the company created in a partnership with Des Moines-based Kemin Industries to develop the medical marijuana. Lucas Nelson is the general manager of Kemin’s outsourcing services and oversees the MedPharm construction at the Kemin facility.

“That build out is going very well and we’re about two weeks from completing first phase. That phase involves some of the grow areas and also the office area. With that complete we’ll turn to the rest of our vegetative and flower rooms,” Nelson says. He says the growing rooms should be done by June and construction of the lab and the rest of the facility wrap up in September.

“That should put us on target with a couple of weeks to spare to hit our December 1st good to deliver product to dispensaries,” Nelson says. “We’re tracking very well, although that is a very aggressive deadline, we do anticipate hitting that — like I said — with few weeks to spare.” Some states like California have the climate to be able to grow the marijuana plants outdoors — but Nelson says Iowa’s climate requires growing everything indoors.

“This is a very, very controlled environment that these plants will live in, really their entire life cycle,” Nelson explains. “They’ll start in a large mother room, they’ll then move to separate grow rooms throughout their life cycle. And those rooms are controlled for humidity, temperature and light. Very specific controls to prevent any sort of biohazard, mites, other pests, that sort of thing.” The first plants will come from outside the facility.

“For security reasons we are not discussing where the originals are coming from,” according to Nelson. “As many growers can tell you — the interesting things is that once we have our first batch — we actually will be able to take cuttings from there and come up with the rest of our plants.” It will take roughly 10 weeks to get a plant to maturity.

“They’re actually shocked by changing the amount of light the plants are receiving, and that shocks the plant….into producing the flowers, the buds. And that process takes another 10 weeks for full flowering. Once we get to that stage, we’ll take the plants, we’ll harvest them and they’ll be dried for roughly a week, and that dried plant material is what’s ground and then the oil is extracted from there,” Nelson says. The amount of oil derived from each plant varies.

“For some of the trim and kind of the excess parts of the plants you can maybe get seven percent oil yield,” Nelson says. “For some of the other plants — especially if they are grown in some of the best conditions and monitored closely– we’re hoping to get possibly up to 20 to 25 percent oil yield.”

Once the oil is extracted the product will be sent out to five dispensaries. The process to award distribution licenses is still underway. Nelson says they will be key to getting feedback on the product.

“Those will be kind of the front line of understanding what patients are looking for, if they are receiving all the benefits. If they are clamoring for something else,” Nelson says. “Also, MedPharm is keeping a close eye on the industry across other states. As you can imagine, some of the more robust medical cannibus states have a lot more data coming out of them about what people are seeking.”

MedPharm does have an agreement with a Colorado company to share information on products and manufacturing techniques as it gets underway with producing the oil.