BRIDGEPORT – Harvest Care Medical’s cannabis growing and processing facility is under construction in Bridgeport, and the company’s officials hope to have the product ready for the market by the end of this year.
The company was named one of West Virginia’s 10 licensed medicinal cannabis breeders last year.
Bill Freas, CEO of Harvest Care Medical, said the company had received a warm welcome in Harrison County and he hoped to continue building that relationship.
“We chose Bridgeport as our main location, we went down there and met with various organizations,” said Freas. “Everyone was very receptive to the opportunity in the Bridgeport area. When we got the licenses, we chose Bridgeport as our “No. 1, ‘and we work closely with the community. “
Kevin Gibbs, senior vice president of operations at Harvest Care Medical and chief operating officer of Merida Capital Holdings – a private equity fund specializing in medical cannabis – said construction of the Bridgeport facility was well underway.
“The West Virginia project is one of the few that we’ve done from scratch,” said Gibbs. “The construction site work and the weather delays over the winter have pushed our schedule back a bit, but our walls will be pulled up next week. We should be under the roof in July and we are looking for our first harvest in early autumn. We are very excited to bring medicine to patients in West Virginia. “
Harvest Care Medical also plans to operate 10 pharmacies across the state, including one in Fairmont, with the hope of opening doors at its retail locations in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“We are diligently pushing forward plans and permits to open these pharmacies so that when we have the product ready in the grow facility, we will have retail ready for our customers,” said Gibbs. “We’d love our first patients to buy our medical cannabis early in the fourth quarter of this year, but part of that will depend on how quickly the testing labs can process the product.”
The cultivation and processing laboratory will create an estimated 50 to 100 local jobs.
Freas said that once the plant is grown, the company will be able to turn cannabis into medicine in a variety of forms.
“This will be a pharmaceutical grade drug when it is finished in whatever form,” said Freas. “With our processing facility, we will be able to produce edibles, vapors and extracts along with the actual flowers. It’s a very controlled process. Once we have a product in the market, we look forward to working with a number of pharmacies across the state, not just our own. “
The company and its officials have performed similar medical cannabis surgeries in a number of states, including Maryland and Virginia.
Gibbs noted certain patients in Virginia who the Company’s product has relieved of pain.
“Our first patient was a young girl with Dravet syndrome,” said Gibbs. “With medical marijuana, she was able to significantly reduce the number of her seizures. It was just a life changing experience for her and her family. You will see many such stories. There are many patients who need this drug and it will make many people’s lives a lot easier. “
Another important point that company officials are addressing is cannabis’ ability to reduce dependence on opioids.
Dustin Freas, Harvest Care Medical’s chief development officer, said that states that have legalized marijuana – be it medical or recreational – the rate of opioid overdoses is falling.
He said Harvest Care Medical was involved in pushing for opioid replacement legislation in the states where Harvest Care operates.
“Opioids have a place on the health continuum, but not where they are today,” said Dustin Freas. “It is a huge epidemic in our country that kills thousands and thousands of people every year. This is where cannabis comes in. “
Bill Freas, Dustin’s father, also spoke about the benefits of replacing opioids with cannabis.
“It’s not addicting and you get the same result,” said Bill Freas. “We see it everywhere. Where medical marijuana is in operation, we see a decrease in (opioid) overdose and a decrease in opioid use on a large scale … because you find that you can get the same relief without the addictive properties, and it is not that difficult for your system. …
“We believe it will ultimately be an alternative and probably a first option in many situations. There’s a lot of research going on right now and other variables at play here, but I believe we’ll see a huge step in that direction in the next five years or so. “
Bill Freas acknowledged that marijuana still has a stigma on some people. But he said he and the rest of Harvest Care Medical hope to do everything possible to dispel negative beliefs about medical cannabis.
“The stigma has been there for many, many years and it won’t change overnight,” said Bill Freas. “I think the key to that is education. We’ll be delivering everything from training seminars to website training to help make people aware of how it is really used and what it could mean for people with different diagnoses or problems. It won’t happen overnight, but states that are now actively engaged in medicine (cannabis) are seeing tremendous public reactions. “
Officials said they were happy to be on the first floor of medical cannabis in West Virginia and ready to promote their product as an affordable, effective form of treatment for eligible patients.
“As clichéd as it sounds, the most important thing to me is to provide affordable medicines for patients so they can have access to this drug to improve their lives and get positive results,” said Dustin Freas. “Second, we are blessed to work with Harrison County and come into a community that is clearly open to business from what you have shown us. … We can really transform a community from the ground up in a positive way, in more ways than one. “
Bill Freas expanded his son’s view.
“It’s really about making a difference in the community, firstly by marketing high-quality pharmaceutical-grade medicines and secondly by being able to create jobs and help build the area,” said Bill Freas.
John Mark Shaver, Editor of Fairmont News, can be reached at 304-844-8485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.