FarmaceuticalRX Launches $14M Marijuana Research Campus
FARRELL, Pa. – Dominic DeMarco, who grew up in Campbell, Ohio, moved to Colorado to get into the medical marijuana industry.
That was 7 1/2 years ago. DeMarco had long been interested in the medical qualities and benefits of cannabis, but also looked forward to moving back East when the opportunity opened in the region.
“I have family here and once it became OK to come back and get back in the industry, I did so,” DeMarco said.
That opportunity was presented by FarmaceuticalRX, where he is trim supervisor. He is among the first 49 employees – soon to become 50 – at the company’s new Farrell campus and headquarters, which held a ribbon cutting Friday morning.
The company also has a processor and cultivation site in East Liverpool.
FarmaceuticalRX spent $14 million to convert two buildings formerly occupied by Sharon Steel Corp. for medical marijuana cultivation, processing and research and development, Rebecca Myers, founder and CEO, said. The company was founded seven years ago as a biotechnology research firm but needed to “back up” as inconsistencies between federal and state law were resolved, she said.
The company manufactures an array of cannabis-based products, including vape pens, topicals, patches and pills, which it distributes though half a dozen of Pennsylvania’s approximately 50 dispensaries.
The company made its first sale in late September. It is primarily selling through western Pennsylvania dispensaries, including Pittsburgh, but also is selling to one in Allentown and will be reaching into Philadelphia and State College next month.
“We are falling into the niche in Pennsylvania as the high-quality provider,” Myers said. The market for medical marijuana products is growing so rapidly that the company could triple its capacity and not have enough supply to meet the demand. “Anxiety was added as a covered condition a few months back and that’s just opened the door for treatment for a whole new group of patients,” she added.
FarmaceuticalRX also is the only company in the state that has a living soil platform used to grow plants with high cannabinoid levels that can be used to make high-quality medicines.
“Without that kind of plant, you can’t do research,” Myers said.
Farrell was approached by several medical marijuana companies during a six-month period, said Richard Ceci, city manager. One of the reasons the city was so attractive to those firms was its status – until earlier this year – as an Act 47 financially distressed community, which added points in the scoring for getting a cultivation license.
“I wasn’t trying to pick winners and losers but I was really confident with this group,” Ceci said. Myers “wanted to do more than just grow a product and sell it. It was just as important to them to do research and development down the road,” he said.
FarmaceuticalRX’s research partners include Penn State University, which will operate out of the campus’ research lab, Case Western Reserve University and Harvard Medical School’s Dana–Farber Cancer Institute.
FarmaceuticalRX’s vice president of research and development is Lindsey Snyder, who has been with the company two years. She has a doctorate in neuroscience.
“I’ve always been really interested in transitional science, making sure what we discover in the lab is helping people feel better and live better lives,” Snyder said. “Once I found this company, I really wanted to be a part of it because that’s exactly what their mission is – researching medical marijuana so that we can make better products for patients so that they can live better lives.”
Among the main areas of interest for the company are improving the lives of patients who suffer from chronic pain and helping people with anxiety, she said.
The company’s 50th employee will come on board Nov. 1, Myers said. Of those 50 employees, 39 were hired locally, she said. “We had to bring some subject matter expertise form Colorado and California and Nevada,” but the goal is to develop that expertise locally over time, she said.
She also expects employment to increase to 100 over the next year and may expand further with a potential greenhouse expansion. Pay rates begin at $15 per hour, but the first class of team leads on the cultivation and processing side already has been promoted, she said.
Sherris Moreira, executive director of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, praised the “out of the box thinking” that brought the company to Farrell.
“This is a huge deal,” she said. “We’re going to be looking at Farrell as the leader when it comes to innovation and change in the Shenango Valley.”
Speakers also included state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-7 Hermitage, and Farrell Councilwoman Annette Morrison.
“This is a part of revitalizing the community. This is cutting edge,” Longietti said.
“A lot of things are going to come out of this,” Morrison said.
Pictured above: Sherris Moreira, executive director of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, joined Lindsey Snyder and Rebecca Myers for the ribbon cutting.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.