After a long licensing process, Curio Wellness (CW), a vertically integrated, medical cannabis company, was awarded its final license on August 14th. The company hopes to be part of the force that drives a medicinal cannabis ecosystem that results in Maryland becoming a national leader in research, development and commercialization of medicinal products derived from cannabis. The Baltimore-based startup, led by the successful and homegrown entrepreneur, Michael Bronfein and his daughter, Wendy Bronfein, aspires to set the standard for quality in medical cannabis, and looks forward to providing a diverse, high quality line of products to Maryland’s medical cannabis patients.
Michael Bronfein is well known in a state known for Maryland blue crabs and my favorite sports team, The Baltimore Orioles, for his success in the healthcare and pharma industries where he has co-founded and built two nationally known companies, NeighborCare and Remedi SeniorCare. Additionally, he sits on the advisory boards at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School Health Care Policy, and has attracted a talented scientific advisory board led by two renowned doctors, Dr. John Holaday, chairman, and Dr. Solomon Snyder, vice chairman.
CW will distribute premium flowers, tinctures and vape pens, as well as both CW and Dixie Elixir branded products, across Maryland. Dixie Brands, Inc. is the leading U.S. brand in cannabis-infused consumable and topical products. CW has the exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute Dixie products in Maryland, and is planning for an aggressive roll out in the fall.
Working with their scientific advisory board, CW will continually expand their product portfolio producing medicinal cannabis products in traditional dosage forms. They have already identified a number of targeted formulas, and plan to use patient-based research to test product efficacy as they create a trusted and reliable brand.
It all started for CW back in the fall of 2013, when Wendy Bronfein saw a news blurb from the then Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration about the new Maryland medical cannabis program.
By the spring of 2014, Wendy had engaged her dad, and the father/daughter team began their due diligence process to more deeply explore the opportunity. After months of research, including attending the first National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) national conference in Denver that summer, the team decided to go all-in pursuing cultivation, processing and dispensary licenses.
Dr. Snyder, a friend of Michael’s from his tenure as board chair of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, verified that the plant was indeed a legitimate compound and in many ways a “miracle plant” based on the promise it offered to treat a variety of conditions. His recommendation cemented the family’s determination to be a leader in the nascent industry, and to be the provider of choice for safe, effective and reliable cannabis based medicinal products.
After the state finally started accepting applications in November of 2015 (the original deadline was September of 2014), CW mobilized with a multi-million-dollar investment in due diligence and business plan development. Upon application submission, the company embarked on a campaign to garner additional investors in order to provide CW with a strong and flexible capital structure in order to assure success of the journey to become the premier manufacturer and distributor of safe, effective and reliable scientifically developed medicinal products derived from cannabis.
After receiving provisional licenses in August, 2016, the firm begin implementing their strategy and executing the plan that they had meticulously developed over the last two years.
The process began with the recruitment of a world-class team of managers to conceptualize, build and launch a futuristic cultivation and processing facility. They purchased a 56,000 square foot facility in Timonium, Maryland in a commercial park just off the Baltimore beltway, which includes three acres of favorably zoned land that will allow for expansion to build an additional 100,000 square feet of production space. The original building was gutted to allow the CW team to maximize the space to meet their own stringent cannabis workflow requirements and to create a clean and efficient environment for product testing, growth, processing and packaging that rivals any pharmaceutical facility in the world. They hired Whiting Turner, an experienced industrial plant developer based in Baltimore, as general contractor to build the inaugural facility to pharmaceutical and food GMP manufacturing specs.
The infrastructure of the newly completed facility is second to none, including customized electrical and water irrigation systems outfitted to maximize production, consistency and quality of individual cultivars.
The plant includes loading docks and a warehouse room in a controlled environment to keep contaminants out from the outset; four research and development rooms; clone rooms; and individually temperature controlled hygienic cultivation chambers using the latest technology down to the anti-microbial walling and duct systems that allow for easy cleaning to maintain a sterile environment for plant production.
The carefully designed cannabis workflow, from drying to processing and extraction to packaging, is admirable and surely replicated by others looking to compete in the industry long-term. CW has spared no expense in building their inaugural plant, using top tier suppliers like York, Johnson Controls, Argus, Gavita, GGS Structures, and Waters Technologies – just a few of the product and service suppliers that they are utilizing in what is truly a world-class facility.
The investment in the Waters extraction, testing and separation systems will allow CW to create 100 percent pure extracts and concentrates. The Karsch tablet press they have acquired will allow for precise uniform product dosing.
To execute on its short and long-term strategy and goals, CW has recruited an experienced management team to employ what it calls “frictionless management” and lean operating design throughout the facility. The idea is for the operating teams to be able to share information seamlessly across an ever-increasing staff. To power this, they are employing Accumatica ERP technology.
Education of both patients and physicians is part of CW’s carefully laid plans. They are a founding member of CANMD, the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association, which promotes the responsible advancement of the medical cannabis industry in Maryland by fostering a favorable social, economic and legal climate.
As many industry insiders know, the state of Maryland’s path to a successful launch of its medical marijuana program has been anything but smooth. After several fits and starts with the original rule-making and application processing procedure, the state finally awarded licenses to 15 producers and 15 processors late in the summer of 2016, followed shortly thereafter with another 100 or so retail dispensary preliminary license awards.
Multiple law suits followed, including a minority-led attempt to derail the entire licensing process in order to receive due process and reconsideration of their application. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan earlier this month shook up the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission, filling three vacancies and replacing six commission members whose terms had expired, while doubling minority representation.
Now that CW has received its license to proceed on its path to becoming a world class leader in the cultivation and processing of medical cannabis in the state of Maryland, the company is well-poised to execute their plan of becoming one of the top industry players in years to come in what will certainly be a market where the strong survive.
And based on the Bronfein’s past track record of success, CBE believes that we will be hearing from CW for years to come.
Company Name: Curio Wellness
Year Founded: 2014
Ownership structure/operating entities: LLC
Management Team: Michael Bronfein, CEO; Wendy Bronfein, Director of Marketing; Doug DeLeaver, Director of Security; Dennis DePaolo, Director of Plant Science & Research; Ted Dumbauld, COO; Brad Friedlander, CFO; Chris Holshouser, Director, Cultivation Management; Ayana Lugo, Director, Business Development; Edward Rudnic, PhD/General Manager Manufacturing; Grant Schuster, Manager of Lean Management Systems; Lee Williams, Director, HR.
Headquarters: Timonium, MD
Number of Locations: 1
Number of Licenses by State: 3
Industry Segment/Category: Producer/Processor/Retailer
Current Markets/States Served: Maryland
Current Number of employees: 21
Market Strategy/Goal: To be the wholesale manufacturer and distributor of choice for safe, effective and reliable, scientifically researched and developed, medicinal products derived from cannabis, first in Maryland and ultimately throughout the US.
Curio Wellness is cultivating a better way of life. As a trusted healthcare partner providing safe, reliable and effective products, we seek to continually elevate the healthcare conversation through education and patient experiences that are truly transformative. Whether for our patients, partners or employees, we seek to inspire and affect innovative healthcare solutions.
2017 Projected Revenues: TBD
Company Revenue Mix: Flower, processed goods
Expansion Plans: Interested in taking proof of concept in Maryland to other legal and licensed medical cannabis states long-term.
Financing strategy: Raised and utilized personal capital to research market and apply for state license, raised $30 million to date.