Will state’s first medical marijuana facility be in Montevideo? Entrepreneur behind proposal driven by child’s urgent need
MONTEVIDEO — No sooner had Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill legalizing medical marijuana in Minnesota than Jeremy Pauling was lining up support to build the first facility to produce it in Montevideo.
“I was brought up not to sit on my hands,’’ said Pauling.
There’s another reason for his urgency. His seven year-old-daughter Katelyn suffers chronic seizures due to Batten Disease. It’s an inherited and fatal neurological disease.
Doctors have given her a life expectancy of possibly 10 to 12 years. Pauling said he and his wife, Kristy, are committed to doing all they can to ease her suffering.
Along with their daughter, they were regulars at the state Legislature this session, testifying and advocating for the bill that Gov. Dayton signed May 29.
It calls for the development of two facilities to manufacture medical marijuana, as well as eight distribution sites to be located geographically about the state.
In a two-day time frame, Pauling secured resolutions from the City of Montevideo and Chippewa County supporting the proposal to develop a manufacturing facility. Pauling believes the proposal is the first in the state to obtain local government support.
The city has already offered a site for the facility on its east side.
Pauling hopes the early approval will help make the facility a possibility in Montevideo. At this point, he knows of 10 different parties who have contacted the Minnesota Department of Health expressing interest in developing a facility.
“We’re in the planning stages right now,’’ said Pauling. If the proposal gets the state nod, he said it would be critical to get construction underway by late August. The new state law allows the first medical marijuana to be administered under prescription on July 1, 2015.
Pauling is a sales associate with J & D Construction, a family business started in 1980 in the back of a pickup truck by his father, Jerry, and his partner, Doug Nelson. The company builds and erects grain storage facilities across much of the country.
It’s known locally most of all by its headquarters and manufacturing facility located west of Montevideo on U.S. Highway 212. Since 2006, a 500,000 bushel capacity grain bin that is super-insulated and heated and cooled by a geo-thermal system has housed its offices and central operations.
Pauling said his father has taken on the challenge of determining what a Montevideo facility for growing and manufacturing medical marijuana might look like. While it may seem novel, the science behind it is well known, said Pauling.
A variety of marijuana strains would be raised indoors in a secure facility. The plants produce different cannabinoid oils, which are extracted for medical use.
The medical marijuana would be available in the form of pills or as a liquid that would be vaporized.
Pauling said the cannabinoid extract that he believes will help his daughter is known as Charlotte’s Web. It’s named for Charlotte Figi, who gained national fame when her parents and physicians successfully lobbied for its use to ease her epileptic seizures.
The extracted, cannabinoid oil does not provide a high, he said.
The Pauling’s have not administered the extract to their daughter, but have friends who moved to Colorado to obtain medical marijuana for their child. Pauling said he and his wife, who is a registered nurse, had also considered moving to a state where medical marijuana is available.
They decided instead to fight for the cause in Minnesota. They did not want to leave the support system of family and friends they have in Montevideo for their daughter and her sisters, Kaylee and Kassey, he explained.
Pauling said the Montevideo facility being contemplated would create 30 to 40 new jobs, many of them laboratory technicians. The state estimates that the Minnesota facilities would provide medical marijuana for 5,000 or more people afflicted with the diseases for which it is approved.
Pauling believes the actual number could prove to be much higher once facilities are operating. He sees the current legislation as a stepping stone. Ultimately, he believes legislators will allow medical marijuana to be prescribed for a greater array of diseases.
A state task force is now working with the Department of Health to implement Minnesota’s new law. There is no way to know whether the Montevideo proposal will emerge as one of the two chosen sites, but Pauling is confident of this much. Montevideo is right for it.
“It really makes you feel good to have a community get behind you with something that is so taboo, let us say,’’ he said. Pauling said the community’s response has been straight-forward: “What can we do to help?”
“We get that in small town Minnesota,’’ he said.