PERTH – The pistils, or hairs of the plants, are ready. The resin and THC levels appear to be in peak condition.
It’s time to harvest marijuana plants at the Tryon Technology Park.
“We’re going to start harvesting next week,” Vireo Health of New York, LLC Chief Horticulturist Chuck Schmitt said Wednesday.
Vireo Health – the park’s only and first full-time business – is due to begin harvesting its cannabis plants this week to produce batches of legal medical marijuana products for the public. The firm employs 20 people, mostly with scientific, horticulture and plant biology backgrounds.
Fulton County and Vireo Health officials on Wednesday took area media on a tour of Vireo Health’s new operation – a curiously sophisticated and highly-protected cannabis growth building sanctioned by New York state. The new company provides medical marijuana – mainly in the form of vapor and capsules. Such firms also produce medical cannabis oral tinctures and syringes to Empire State-sanctioned dispensaries.
The new Tryon Technology Park is owned by the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency.
“Vireo came to us last year, in the spring of 2015,” says IDA Executive Director James Mraz. “This was a central location.”
In 2014, New York state adopted the Compassionate Care Act that authorized the growing of medical cannabis to manufacture medicines to administer to patients with debilitating diseases. Vireo Health was one of five companies issued a license, retrofitting an existing 21,000-square-foot building.
Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung agreed Friday his company was attracted to the location.
“When you look at where Fulton County is located in the state, from a logistics standpoint. it’s at a convenient location to different parts of the state,” Hoffnung said. “There is a tremendous amount of [employment] talent in the Capital District.”
Hoffnung said Vireo Health is a “professionally-run operation” that will only gain more support as time goes on.
“Fulton County is an efficient place to build a plant,” he said.
Schmitt, who led Wednesday’s tour, showed off medical medical marijuana production from start to finish. The extraction process goes from seedlings to bricks of smaller plants to larger, more mature plants in the company’s new greenhouse. The cannabis is eventually processed into the medical marijuana used by patients.
Temperature, humidity and moisture controls are closely monitored throughout the process. Light, whether it’s blue-green or orange, are appropriately used for growing. Vireo Health recaptures and reuses its roof rainwater throughout the process. Security is also very tight at Vireo Health.
“It’s a continuous process,” Schmitt said. “This is a very unique [operation].”
The Vireo Health building has five “flowering” rooms, with Schmitt showing off the vibrant sticky strains of the plants known as the pistils. One of the rooms has 300 plants growing.
Temperatures are generally kept warm in the growing rooms, as high as 85 degrees. In the 20,000-square-foot greenhouse, Schmitt shows the tour the 2,000 more mature plants, already from four to eight feet high and ready to harvest. Those plants have the higher concentrations of THC, the compound obtained from cannabis that is the primary intoxicant in marijuana.
The pharmacological process pulls out the useful parts of the marijuana plant to make its medicine.
Vireo Health eventually plans to build a second and third-greenhouse, Schmitt said.
Company Scientific Director Eric Greenbaum says a state lab eventually does a third party canniabinoid testing on Vireo Health’s product before it can be shipped out to the licensed dispensaries.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].