Eastern Shore Innovation Center offers tour of medical cannabis labs

SunX Analytical founder Barry Pritchard gives a tour of the company’s hemp processing lab at the Eastern Shore Innovation Center in Cambridge, Wednesday, June 19.

CAMBRIDGE — The Eastern Shore Innovation Center offered a tour of its facility’s hemp-friendly labs, as well as a peek at one of Maryland’s marijuana cultivation centers in Cambridge, Wednesday, June 19.

The ESIC invited members of the Maryland Economic Development Association for an “informative, firsthand look at the emerging agriculture industry that has everyone talking.”

Opened in 2016, the ESIC is the Eastern Shore’s first full-service business incubator, meaning it provides operational space for start-ups in the area.

The tour included a look at the building’s SunX Analytical Hemp Processing Lab, which houses a variety of hemp-derived products and the machines used to produce them.

SunX Analytical founder Barry Pritchard said his company “grabbed the [hemp] industry by the horns” three years ago and has been focused on the production, purification and formulation of cannabis products.

Pritchard said SunX aids in the production of goods such as lip balms, liquid drops and other cannabidiol-infused products, created mostly by Maryland Eastern Shore-based companies.

Pritchard said one of SunX’s biggest challenges in the hemp industry is its inability to accommodate the high volume growth of hemp materials.

“If we have 10,000 pounds of material made, we only have capacity for about 25% of that to process immaculately,” Pritchard said. “We’re trying to expand exponentially here within the next few years to try to catch up with that.”

Pritchard walked MEDA guests through the process of making pharmaceutical grade CBD products and talked about why he chose to set up shop in the ESIC building.

Pritchard said when he was looking for laboratory space, he made an agreement with ESIC that would allow him to occupy space in the building’s warehouse.

The ESIC then helped his company to receive “the largest Rural Maryland Council grant of 2016,” which it used to set up labs in the Cambridge building, he said.

After the SunX tour, the hours-long event continued, with guests going on a verbal tour of Peninsula Holistic’s, a medical CBD and tincture company that also occupies space in the ESIC.

The company’s chief executive officer, Anthony Darby, explained how Peninsula Holistic’s has overcome many people’s negative perceptions toward cannabis.

“A lot of people were not willing to join the Maryland cannabis program because they were scared of their employer finding out ... but a lot of these folks wanted to try CBD,” Darby said.

Darby touched on the importance of getting CBD and THC products from credible and reliable sources.

“Hemp is an industrial product that sucks up everything in the ground,” Darby said. “So if it’s not processed properly, it’ll have heavy metals, it’ll have contaminants and people get very sick, not from the CBD but from the other contaminants that are in some of these unregulated products.”

After the Peninsula Holistic’s tour, MEDA guests were allowed access to Culta, one of Maryland’s medical marijuana cultivation centers in Cambridge. Culta is one of 15 cannabis growers situated throughout the state of Maryland.

Maryland, along with 14 other states, is a leading player in the industrial hemp production sector, enacting legislation in 2016 to allow growth of the plant in “certain circumstances.”

As of now, industrial hemp cannot legally be grown in Maryland without some affiliation with a university or an institution of higher education. But SunX and Peninsula Holistic’s, as well as other proponents of hemp industrialization, are hoping that changes in the near future.

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