Midwest Roots to Start Producing Cannabis Products at Rural Washington Factory | Local News
Company CEO says he sees a ‘bright future’ for Midwest Roots in Washington
Next month, the city of Washington will not only host 14,500 people, a corn cob pipe museum and factory, a model train museum and one of the largest fairs in the state, but also one of the largest medical cannabis manufacturing facilities in the state.
Chris Klein, CEO of Midwest Roots, said the 80,000 square foot facility he currently leases east of Washington on the old Route 100 is ready to begin production.
“I had to sit idle for a long time due to the availability of the (cannabis) flower, but now that the product is more readily available, we’re ready to move forward,” Klein said.
At its Washington facility, Klein said the company will produce a variety of cannabis products, including pre-rolled joints, vape pens, cannabis-infused edibles and pills.
The products will be sold under the Olympus Cannabis Co. brand and are expected to hit local dispensary stores in May, he said. Olympus products will be available for purchase at medical marijuana dispensaries in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and elsewhere in Missouri.
“The really interesting thing is that I have relationships with a lot of dispensary owners,” said Klein, a St. Louis resident who said he’s run a number of nutritional supplement stores across the country. State. “It really opened up a lot of opportunities.”
The rural Washington facility, which was previously used for on-farm storage, underwent more than $3 million in renovations to upgrade for Midwest Roots purposes.
“This is a very large-scale installation, probably one of the biggest in the state,” said Klein, who is in talks to buy the building. It is one of 67 cannabis manufacturers in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services..
Klein and Facilities Manager Scott Hulsey said Washington’s connection to Interstates 44 and 70 made it an ideal location for them when evaluating possible sites.
“There are very few buildings that fit the criteria of what we were looking for, in terms of square footage, in terms of labor,” Klein said. “We are confident that we will be able to get the products we manufacture here to dispensaries across the state within a few business days. … We certainly see a bright future here.
Inside the facility, Midwest Roots has an industrial-grade kitchen where employees can make cannabis-infused gummies or edibles, such as chocolates. The kitchen is equipped with an automatic gumball machine, which costs around $165,000, which produces gummies at a rate of 12,000 per hour. The tablet press, which can produce over 100,000 tablets per hour, costs $145,000.
“It’s not a machine that we’ll be using every day, initially, because we don’t want to flood the market,” Klein said. “Putting it on the shelf is the easy part – getting it off the shelf is the hardest part. We’re trying to make Olympus products a highly sought-after brand. So whatever we’ll do will be progressive.
One day employees may be making gummies and the next they may be working assembling packaging for other products.
“Employees here will have to be very flexible because they won’t be doing the same thing every day,” Hulsey said.
The company, which initially plans to hire a limited number of employees, would likely see its workforce grow to 45 employees if Klein’s efforts to obtain a cultivation license from the state are successful. This hiring spree would make Midwest Roots one of the largest cannabis industry employers in the St. Louis area, according to data compiled by the St. Louis Business Journal. With 194 employees, the largest employer, CBD Kraton of St. Louis, has 16 dispensaries and three manufacturing plants in the state, according to the Business Journal.
When the state began rolling out its medical cannabis program, Klein applied for dispensary, grower, manufacturer, and transportation permits and licenses from the state Department of Health, the agency responsible for administer licensing for the industry.
While it was approved for manufacturing and transportation, Klein’s application was denied for a dispensary permit and the grower’s license he needs to legally grow cannabis in his facility. The reasons for the refusals have not been made public.
“We filed the appeal in January 2020, so we are still awaiting my right to present the facts regarding my claim at a hearing with the state,” Klein said.
If the appeal is successful, Klein said a 30,000 square foot portion of the facility will be used for cultivation.
“Culture requires a lot more people, it takes a lot more labor,” Klein said. About 47 growers have been approved by the state health department to operate in Missouri, and the program has 13 additional grower licenses available and unused.
News of the start of production from the Midwest Roots facility comes as Missouri prepares for a possible vote to legalize recreational cannabis. Supporters of the Legal Missouri 2022 initiative are trying to collect enough signatures to place the legalization vote on the November ballot. According to the St. Louis Business Journal, legalization is expected to generate between $60 million and $100 million in additional tax revenue for the state, which would be used to fund health and criminal justice programs.
“No one knows what impact legalization would have on businesses like ours,” Klein said. “It will definitely lead to a lot more demand and our goal is to be ready for that demand.”