Maryland medical cannabis cultivator CULTA has launched the state program’s first tissue culture lab in an effort to further hone its approach to craft cannabis and extracts. Chief Cannabis Officer and co-founder Mackie Barch said that it’s a natural next step in the company’s growth plans and cultivation goals.
The team took their first tissue culture clones on April 8. (The news comes just a few months after CULTA moved its headquarters to a new office in Bethesda to accommodate a long-term growth strategy, which includes plans to add 100 more employees across its farm in Cambridge, retail dispensary in Baltimore and new HQ.)
The prime motivation was “to ensure redundancy of our genetics, the ability to create clean new moms and to be able to store genetics for long periods of time,” Barch said. “The long-term implications are to ensure we don’t lose prized genetics to disease and age. Additionally, we can store more genetics in a safer manner and bring them back as needed.”
Looking ahead, the lab will also allow CULTA to develop an in-house breeding program.
“Plant tissue culture is not a hard process to do, but it takes a lot of knowledge and skill to master,” CULTA Tissue Culture Lab Supervisor Isaac Fisher said. “Lab experience is extremely beneficial, especially if it involves microbiology, mycology, botany or biochemistry. No new employees we’re brought on specifically for the Tissue Culture lab. I have past experience working in a molecular genetics lab, but started out at CULTA doing outdoor cultivation and then working in the extraction lab before helping start the tissue culture lab.”
While medical cannabis sales have been steadily soaring since they began in 2017, the state has never had edibles on the menu. But that will be changing as soon as December.
Legalization of Medical Cannabis Edibles in Maryland
In May, 2019 Governor Larry Hogan signed cannabis edibles into the law. Over the last year and a half it has been quiet as the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission pulled together well-rounded regulations for cannabis edibles in Maryland.
The regulations are currently on the Maryland Register website for a 30-day public comment period. So for a month following its release, the public will have the ability to comment and criticize the regulations, which will lead to another editing session.
After this 30-day period, all comments will be taken in and edits on the regulation will begin. The MMCC does not specify how long this process may take. Once completed, the regulations will be submitted for one last 15-day notice period.
The draft regulations span several pages with details pertaining to every aspect of cannabis edibles in Maryland, from transportation to retail packaging. But there are some key regulations that cover the basics.
For dosages, the MMCC will require all cannabis edibles in Maryland to contain no more than 10mg of THC per dose, and no more than 100mg of THC per package. They also recommend having 2.5mg and 5mg options as well. As for the packaging of the edibles, labelling will be consistent with the industry standard in Maryland with a THC label. With the addition of the edible element, packaging is also required to include ingredients and even a list of any synthetic or natural preservatives added into the product.
To go a step farther, the regulation will actually require those interested in producing cannabis edibles in Maryland to submit their complete recipe, including the production process in order to be approved. Similarly to other states, cannabis edibles in Maryland can’t resemble any shape that might be appealing to children, with the MMCC specifying that edibles should be designed in a “geometric” shape.
And like other states with cannabis edibles, Maryland will require lab testing of edibles for THC and other cannabinoids in addition to any microbiological impurities.
Regulations subject to change
Like we said, these regulations for cannabis edibles in Maryland are subject to change after the 30-day public comment period. However it is unlikely that much will change from the original regulation so that it can move forward before the end of the year.
Once approved, manufacturing and retail sale of cannabis edibles in Maryland will be permitted, and there are already dispensaries ready to take on the challenge.
Culta in Baltimore designed their vertically integrated operation to include a kitchen that could be used with the anticipation of edibles eventually being made legal. Culta’s owner Mackie Barch commented on the big move.
“Getting into food manufacturing or beverage manufacturing requires very different tools and skillsets than we have had in the industry so far,” Barch explained. “Entirely new spaces are required for food manufacturing, and there are very specific rules about how the rooms have to be designed… A lot of people are going to have to go back and redesign their facilities to get ready for this.”
Maryland has always been relatively progressive compared to its neighbors when it comes to cannabis. The state decriminalized small amounts in 2010, and enacted a full medical marijuana program in 2012. Now we’re in 2019, but where does the Maryland medical marijuana industry stand?
Inside Culta’s Cultivation
Culta opened in Baltimore, Maryland in 2018 with the goal of bringing exclusive, high quality genetics from successful seed banks and breeders to the Maryland medical marijuana industry.
They built their cultivation facility from scratch inside an old factory right in the inner harbor of Baltimore’s downtown. They also designed one of only four vertically integrated cannabis businesses in the state. This means from seed, to processing, to sale, Culta handles it all in-house.
With over 400 lights in the facility, separate rooms for genetics testing, vegetation and flowering, Culta is by far one of the most technologically sophisticated cultivation facilities in the state. Plus, they sourced some of the most experienced cultivators in the country to build their genetics.
Maryland Medical Marijuana
In this episode of The Real Dirt Podcast, Chip talks with Jay and David, Head Grower and Cultivation Manager of Culta.
Together the three of them dive into the design behind Culta’s facility, the benefits of being vertically integrated, the issues new businesses are dealing with in an industry that is still finding its footing and more.
Roll one up, relax and enjoy the first episode of Season 3 of The Real Dirt with Chip Baker!
This episode is brought to you by Cultivate Colorado, the top grow store in Denver with two locations in the metro area. Cultivate supplies Real Dirt listeners and guests with the grow gear they need to succeed in the garden. Check them out on Instagram @cultivatecolorado for the latest updates and deals.