Mile High Labs’ new home, a 400,000-square-foot facility in Broomfield, gives the CBD producer plenty of room to grow. Stephen Mueller, the company’s CEO and founder, said the five-year business plan envisions a lot of the workspace occupied in the not-too-distant future. A leading provider of hemp-derived cannabidiol for products, Mile High Labs officially opened
Mile High Labs’ new home, a 400,000-square-foot facility in Broomfield, gives the CBD producer plenty of room to grow. Stephen Mueller, the company’s CEO and founder, said the five-year business plan envisions a lot of the workspace occupied in the not-too-distant future.
A leading provider of hemp-derived cannabidiol for products, Mile High Labs officially opened the facility Tuesday. For decades, the site housed pharmaceutical companies.
Mile High Labs acquired the property earlier this year for $18.75 million from Sandoz Inc., a division of Switzerland-based Novartis. The building came with everything from testing and manufacturing equipment to forklifts.
The last batch of pharmaceuticals was produced in May, said Jim Orsini, a program manager for Mile High Labs who formerly worked for Sandoz. He said at the peak, more than 800 people worked at the plant.
Just a handful of people could be seen working Tuesday during a tour led by Orsini that revealed blocks and blocks of gleaming hallways, warehouse floors and spick-and-span processing rooms. But about 100 of the company’s 250 employees have started moving in, and Mueller said he anticipates adding another 100 workers soon.
The company also plans to move beyond extracting and processing the ingredients to also manufacturing products.
“It’s really exciting to see this place start to come back to life,” said Mueller, adding that other Sandoz workers are working for Mile High Labs. “I’m excited just about the scale and ambition of this place, and the way it changes how people think about the CBD industry how people think about the company.”
The company, founded in 2016, has been “stuffed into” a small facility in Loveland for the last year, Mueller said.
Mueller and Gov. Jared Polis, who attended the opening of the plant, stressed that Colorado has been on the front lines of the hemp and CBD industries.
“We’re glad that one of the leading producers of CBD is going to be right here in Broomfield. And the impact in Colorado is more than just Broomfield,” Polis said.
The company supports jobs across the state, buying grown-in-Colorado industrial hemp from farmers, Polis added. Mile High Labs also plans to organize industry summits to bring people from across the country, he said.
“You couldn’t find a better place to do it because as Coloradans, we’re really proud of our status as being the best state in the country for hemp cultivation and processing,” Polis said. “We have state agencies that understand the industry and its needs and have more experience than in other states.”
State agencies are working together through the Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan, or CHAMP, to manage and promote hemp cultivation and production in the state.
The 2014 federal farm bill opened the door nationwide when it allowed cultivation for research purposes and allowed states to permit “pilot programs.” Colorado established a program and became one of the country’s leading producers.
For decades, the plant was a legal crop and was used to make textiles, paper, rope and other products. But hemp got lumped in with its cannabis cousin, marijuana, even though it has negligible amounts of THC, the high-inducing chemical.
The 2018 federal farm bill removed hemp from the classification as a controlled substance. However, the law maintained the Federal Drug Administration’s authority over the plant. The agency is developing regulations, but says it’s still illegal to market CBD in food or as a dietary supplement.
Even without the FDA’s blessing, the CBD industry has taken off. National retailers such as Walgreens and CVS are adding hemp and CBD to their shelves. Whole Foods is selling CBD-infused lotions.
The market projections for 2019 is just over $5 billion and $23.7 billion through 2023, Kay Tamillow, director of research for the Brightfield Group, an analytics and market research firm for the legal CBD and cannabis industries, said in an email.
Mueller said he hopes that members of Congress who support the hemp and CBD industries will prod the FDA to expedite the process.
“There’s two concerns. One is today that there’s product being manufactured in ways that is totally unsafe,” Mueller said.
Mile High Labs has submitted its products to outside auditors and is complying with the FDA’s good management practices, he added.
Another concern is that larger companies won’t get involved with CBD until the FDA acts.
“There’s this limbo now where we’re investing a lot into the quality and compliance side, but it’s not really be recognized, the value of that. And the industry is being stifled because we don’t have big companies that can get involved,” Mueller said.
Tamillow said Brightfield’s forecasts for the industry are based on the premise that the FDA will put forth a revised policy establishing a framework for the legal sales of all compliant CBD products, including CBD-infused foods and supplements, by mid- to late-2020.