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US (MS): Building a $45 million CGMP-certified cannabis facility in a conservative state

Currently, construction is quickly underway at a medical cannabis cultivation facility in Canton, Mississippi. Yet it's not just the facility that makes it unique. It's the location as well.

"Mississippi is a conservative state where the people have embraced medical cannabis as a healthcare option. The voters overwhelmingly voted for legalization at 74%, the Republican House supported it at 86%, and the Republican Senate supported it with 92%," explains Steve Merritt, COO of Southern Sky Brands.

An interesting market
Merritt explains that Mississippi is a unique state when it comes to cannabis, as the University of Mississippi (known as Ole Miss) was the only federally approved cultivation facility since the early 1960s.

"With what we're doing now, it almost feels like we're coming full circle. It started out in Mississippi, and over time we have been able to learn from the cannabis programs, and cannabis operators, in the states across the US. Now, we have the opportunity to look across the landscape and adopt what has worked, and provide Mississippi patients with the quality medicine they deserve."

High-quality medicine
Southern Sky Brands hired Blake Smith of Zion Medical as the Chief Science Officer to ensure the company will grow the best medicine. Merritt is excited about what Blake brings to the project: "Blake's technology and science background is a testament to our commitment to the scientific research into the healing properties of the plant. Moreover, we intend to engage with research universities and share our findings to benefit the industry."

"Being one of a few CGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) facilities in the US will provide a high level of trust with our Mississippi patients. Often, people don't fully understand the process of running a manufacturing facility for medical quality production. It actually starts with design through construction and into operations. Every detail is critical for regulators to certify the facility."

An ambitious project
Southern Sky Brands is building a 70,000-square-foot facility to produce medical cannabis according to CGMP standards and aiming to be one of the first medical cannabis brands in the Magnolia State.

Merritt explains that the founders saw an opportunity for medical cannabis for all Mississippi patients. "We didn't get into cannabis for the income. We got into cannabis for the outcome. We are working with industry leaders in the design and construction of the facility. What we are building together is something we could not have built five years ago without today's technology and industry-specific product solutions."

According to Merritt, the Canton facility will include state-of-the-art rack and LED lighting systems and other cannabis-specific solutions to ensure a highly efficient CGMP operation. For instance, based on experience with other multi-tiered cultivation facilities, the team recognized the need to proactively address microclimates. "We chose the Dual Draft Integrated Airflow System, which not only resolves microclimates but addresses drainage issues that - left unchecked – lead to pest, mold, and microbial issues. Dual Draft is a key technology to help Southern Sky Brands achieve our production models."

Despite global construction supply chain challenges, construction at Southern Sky Brands is on schedule. "Our general contractor has been great at staying on top of things and communicating very well about what is needed and when. It's a very technical build-out. The goal is to be operational in Q4 with products available for medical cannabis patients in early 2023."

For more information:
Southern Sky Brands