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SunMed Labs Edible Factory

The factory, coined by colleagues as the “Willy Wonka Weed Factory," took two years to build.

Photos by Sarah Capparuccini

How good are SunMed Growers’ Cannabis edibles?

So good, says one Maryland man, that he was willing to stake his career, his marriage and the wellbeing of his entire family on them.

“It’s been a great ride,” smiled Andrew Reich. “We kind of make the joke, that when the Yankees call, you answer the phone call.”

The 39-year-old has been the Division Manager of SunMed Labs for nearly three years. He entered a meeting with Owner Jake Van Wingerden, who wanted to see if Reich (serving as the Vice President of Operations for iAnthus at that time) was the right person for the job.

“They had only been in cultivation,” recalled Reich, who got his start in the Cannabis industry with Arizona Facilities Supplies in 2017. “So in 2020, [Jake] asked me, “If I ever bought a processing license, would you come and run it?”

That hypothetical became a reality in April of 2021 when the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) approved the ownership transfer of a processing license, making way for SunMed Growers to create SunMed Labs. Their plan was to build out a new 30,000-square-foot Cannabis processing lab and commercial kitchen on its Warwick campus. But first, a team had to move the labs acquired through PharmaCann from Cumberland – a 214-mile trek.

“That’s a long drive,” said Reich, who drove an 18-foot cargo vehicle on behalf of SunMed. “At the time, I wasn’t even technically working for SunMed. I was in a holding period and they were paying hourly as a contractor until [my family] was able to make the transition and move up here.”

Reich had to convince his wife, Leigh, to uproot themselves and their newborn little girl – selling their house in Central Maryland in the process and moving hours east to the Delaware border.

“That was a tough sell,” said Reich, who attended Towson University. “Honestly, it was a pretty rough patch in our marriage and she wasn’t completely sold on it.”

The Van Wingerdens’ success around the country in farming, Cannabis included, was swaying. As was SunMed’s commitment to the Reichs. In exchange for removing Reich from his non-compete contract with iAnthus Capital, SunMed Growers agreed to give a five-percent discount on all orders for the following year.

Once on board, Reich helped to draw the blueprints for the lab. What followed was a $16 million, 25,000-square-foot factory as part of the company’s 500,000-square-foot complex.

“Ownership has a pretty simple philosophy: hire good people and give them no excuses,” Reich said. “That means giving us the best material and best equipment to make the best products.”

The factory – coined by colleagues as the “Willy Wonka Weed Factory” – took two years to build. In the interim, Reich and a small team worked out of a garage lab.

“We started with chocolates,” he said. “We had to walk before we could run. We had to get our formulation and calculations dialed in. If we dosed them wrong in the beginning, we’d melt them down and re-dose them. Our introduction into the edibles realm was a learning process.”

SunMed Labs now boasts nine different varieties of gummy flavors, as well as seven varieties of chocolates. Brownie bites and ORiA gummies are scheduled to launch in December, while SunMed truffles will make an appearance on the market this winter.

SunMed Labs, Reich boasts, led the Maryland wholesale market with a total of 21.2% of sales, citing a Benzinga News report from September.

“I’ve been a Cannabis consumer for 20 years and it feels good to put out affordable, high-quality products to the public,” he said.

And best of all? His marriage is thriving, and his little girl’s future is brighter than ever.

“We both agree it’s the best decision we ever made,” said Reich, speaking on behalf of Leigh. “SunMed is a great little family here.”

Charged with a staff of 50 of the 200 total employees in Warwick, Reich got to witness the wholesome nature of his work family this fall. A few months after celebrating the opening of recreational Cannabis in Maryland, the Van Wingerdens announced that everyone in the company would receive a $10,000 raise.

“It was emotional for everybody here,” he said. “That’s life-changing money. There were single moms crying. Everyone rose to give a standing ovation. It was just a lot of raw emotion. People were grateful. It was pretty cool.”

sunmedgrowers.com | @sunmed.labs

Photos by @sarahrosefotos

This article was originally published in the December 2023 issue of Maryland Leaf.

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