June 29, 2020 (Courtesy The Jacksonville Business Journal) A Jacksonville-based medical marijuana company is in the middle of a $25 million expansion that includes more than tripling its cultivation space and doubling the number of dispensaries in Florida.
VidaCann, headquartered in Jacksonville with its primary cultivation facility in St. Johns County, is in the process of expanding its cultivation space from 175,000 square feet to 600,000 square feet. The company is also expanding across the state, with plans to go from 13 dispensaries to 35. Both components of the project are expected to be completed by 2021.
“We’ll be going to 600,000 square feet in our phase one of cultivation expansion, and with that comes a laboratory expansion and dispensary acquisition,” said Peyton Moseley, vice president of product development for VidaCann. “We have quite a few dispensaries in the works right now. Gainesville, Orlando and Cape Coral are going to be the next three [dispensaries] to open.”
Moseley said the company’s dispensaries tend to fall between 2,500 and 4,000 square feet, although the newer ones tend to skew towards the larger side due to a new open floorplan design. He said the average buildout costs of each dispensary is between $200,000 to $250,000.
“Currently, we have a dispensary within 50 miles of more than 90 percent of the population in Florida. That was important to us to, at minimum, be able to get a delivery to the majority of the state,” Moseley said.
The goal of the current expansion is to expand their presence in major cities like Orlando, while simultaneously filling in the gaps between the heavily populated areas.
“We’re trying to space it out,” Moseley said. “Ideally, when this is all said and done, the majority of the state will have a local VidaCann.”
Mosely added that while VidaCann has no plans to expand outside the state of Florida, the option to do so hasn’t been written off.
Meanwhile, VidaCann’s campaign to expand its cultivation facilities – which they’ve dubbed Automated Cultivation Environment (ACE) facilities – is well under way. Moseley explained that the ACE facilities are almost entirely automated, with the majority of physical work coming from moving cannabis plants as they shift from one phase to another.
“Our vice president of cultivation, Ashley Peebles, he’s able to monitor the facility on his phone so he can make any changes he needs to remotely,” Moseley said. “Anything from humidity and temperature to watering the plants and feeding them – pretty much every variable you can imagine – is able to be controlled remotely.”
Each unit of the facility is 35,000 square feet, and Moseley said that almost every square foot of the facilities are utilized for cultivation. He added that mature plants in their flowering stage take up approximately 4 square feet, but plants in different stages need different amounts of space.
“You can imagine a library where you can slide the shelves and get in between the rows of books – that’s kind of how we’ve set up our facilities,” Moseley said.
Of course, VidaCann has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. He said the company adopted appropriate policies for both ACE facilities and dispensaries, including increased sanitization procedures and the removal of most tables and seats.
“I’m real proud of our company and the leaders in our company for seeing this for what it is,” Moseley said. “[They] quickly got all of our stores prepared locally – and not just the stores, but our growers and our labs are protected and safe.”
Noting the sudden implications of social distancing, Moseley said VidaCann also rolled out curbside pickup and delivery services, in an effort to add layers of protection for their patients.
“We’ve worked with the Department of Health to design a program where we place the delivery on their [the patients’] doorstep, and then the patient will come outside. They’ll have either their state issued medical marijuana card or their driver’s license, and they’ll hold it next to their face. Then we’ll take a picture of them from around 10 feet away, so we’ve been able to use that in lieu of a signature.”
VidaCann has dispensaries in Bonita Springs, Bradenton, Daytona Beach, Deerfield Beach, Jacksonville, Orlando, Palm Bay, Pensacola, Port Charlotte, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Tampa and West Palm Beach.