WAYNESBORO — An Atlanta-based company is vying for licenses to manufacture a medical marijuana derivative in Virginia and one of the manufacturing locations the company has an option on land is just outside Waynesboro.
Surterra Wellness has a purchase option on 200 acres at 2597 Lyndhurst Road. The company has been in communication with Augusta County government about its application with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy. The initial operation phase would include a greenhouse area, followed by a second and third phase of expansion to meet patient demand.
Surterra has already manufactured and supplied cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil in both Florida and Texas. Under legislation passed in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly, patients suffering from a variety of painful conditions can now receive permission from a physician to use the non-hallucinogenic marijuana derivative for relief.
Surterra is among 51 applicants to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy seeking licenses in five locations across Virginia. Jake Bergmann, the CEO of the company, said Surterra has applied for a license in three of the five locations. The Virginia Board of Pharmacy is expected to make its decision on applications in August. The other locations Surterra is seeking approval for are in Gainesville in northern Virginia and Amelia Court House near Richmond.
The Waynesboro location, if approved, would serve portions of the Central Shenandoah, Lord Fairfax, Rappahannock and Thomas Jefferson health districts. The service area would stretch from south of Alexandria to Charlottesville and west toward the West Virginia border.
Bergmann said if the Virginia Board of Pharmacy grants the company license for the Waynesboro site, it would take six to nine months after the August approval to begin operations. The company now has 300 employees, and should expand to 600 by the end of the year.
Employees working at the Waynesboro site would include pharmacists, horticulturists, chemists and drivers. Deliveries of the product could be made, and patients could also come to the site to purchase it. Patients and doctors must be registered with the Virginia Pharmacy Board to receive the product.
Ray Hernandez, a pharmacist who will oversee Virginia operations, said patients using cannabidiol oil would receive a written certificate from a physician after being seen.
“They would bring the certificate to the center and look at dosages,” Hernandez said. Cash payment would be required, as the medical cannabis is not covered by insurance.
Counselors would be available to advise about the proper use and disposal of the product.
It would take four to five months to grow the product in plant form before the oil is extracted. Hernandez said patients could receive it in soft gel capsules, drops, a transdermal patch and other delivery methods.
Hernandez said several chronic and painful medical conditions are moderated by use of the cannabidiol oil.
“It helps with excema, the nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and the muscle wasting from HIV/AIDS,” Hernandez said. Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, the House sponsor of the General Assembly legislation, also cited Crohn’s Disease and multiple sclerosis as other conditions that would be helped.
Bergmann said the company has devoted significant time to its applications with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy.
The company now offers the cannabidiol oil at 10 retail locations in Florida. Kim Hawkes, Surterra’s community marketing manager, said the locations “are a home environment. You walk in to a kitchen or a living room environment.”
Hawkes said the substances are by delivery only in Texas, and said there are no retail locations in that state.
Bergmann, the founder and CEO of Surterra, sought the medical marijuana opportunity for logical reasons. He founded the company in 2014.
“I saw the business opportunity. People are looking for an alternative,” he said of the pain alternatives to addictive substances such as opioids.
Bergmann is hoping for a positive result. He would like to present his case to the Virginia Pharmacy Board, but said they could “also reach out to regulators in both Florida and Texas” for information on Surterra.