Gary Long is the Chief Executive Officer of Botanical Sciences. With an extensive background in healthcare in the state and across the country, Long is uniquely qualified to lead Botanical Sciences on its journey to provide hope and relief for the patients of Georgia.
Most recently, Long served as Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of R1 RCM (NASDAQ: RCM), offering technology enabled revenue cycle management services for healthcare providers across the country. While at R1, Long led the company to unprecedented levels of market success and profitable revenue growth.
Previously, Long held numerous executive leadership roles within the healthcare industry. He spent nearly six years with Premier Inc (NASDAQ: PINC), one of the leading group purchasing organizations and healthcare technology companies, and 11 years at McKesson (NYSE: MCK), one of the largest pharmaceutical distribution and health technology providers in the country.
In his free time, Long enjoys giving back to the community. He serves as a board member for an organization dedicated to the empowerment of underserved youth through mentoring programs and scholarships for post-secondary education. Long values spending time with his family and living an active lifestyle, with his favorite activities including golf, tennis and pickleball.
Connect with Gary on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Legalization of Cannabis in GA
- Day-to-day duties at CEO of Botanical Sciences
- Benefits of medical cannabis in GA
- The dedication ceremony that was held in December
- Types of products
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, brought to you by on pay. Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:25] Lee Kantor here another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. And this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor on pay. Without them, we can’t be sharing these important stories. Today on Atlanta Business Radio, we have Gary Long with Botanical Sciences. Welcome, Gary.
Gary Long: [00:00:43] Thank you.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:44] So be here. I’m so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about botanical sciences. How are you serving folks?
Gary Long: [00:00:50] Yeah, Botanical Sciences is the first physician to own medicinal cannabis company in the state of Georgia. So we’ve been issued a license by the state back in the fall of last year, and we’re ready when the state is gives us the go ahead to start serving patients.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:10] Now, why does it take so long for this whole process to happen after it seems like you it’s been given the thumbs up and then but it’s still not able to kind of exist in real life yet?
Gary Long: [00:01:25] Yeah, I know there’s been some challenges in that regard. I mean, just for the audience. Medicinal cannabis has been legalized in the state since April of 2015. At that time, Governor Nathan Deal passed the HOPE Act, and that’s what legalized medicinal cannabis. So we’re coming up on almost eight years since then. But things are progressing pretty quickly now, I think, between the fact that a company like ours and five others were went through an RFP process back over the last couple of years, and we were fortunate enough and honored to be selected as one of the two class one companies to provide this therapeutic treatment to the patients of the state. And we anticipate that as things progress over the first half of this year, that the state will authorize us to begin dispensing product.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:18] Now, can you educate the listeners about where we are at regarding cannabis and maybe at the macro level in the United States and then maybe in a micro level here in Georgia?
Gary Long: [00:02:30] Yeah, sure. I mean, as everybody is probably aware, this has been progressing throughout our country for the last several years. I mean, I think everybody’s aware of what happened in Colorado and in the Western states over the last ten plus years. And that wave is now starting to make its way into the south. And Georgia, along with Florida, are kind of leading that way. And so just a reminder, the market for medicinal cannabis, there’s now approximately around 40 of the 50 states that have laws on the books that authorize the use of the product for patients that have a specified need. And we can go through that in a moment. And so our company is designed to serve those patients. We are a physician founded business. Our founder, Dr. Robin Fowler, was an interventional anesthesiologist and has been treating patients in pain and having these types of needs for his whole career. And so I’ve been involved with the business for about three years myself and just recently taking over. But as you can imagine, there’s this pent up demand that’s existed because our state has been a little slower on the on the uptake for this. But it’s definitely moving forward now and we feel like things will progress towards, again, our ability to dispense later this year.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:53] Now for medical cannabis, there are certain the science is there in terms of the effectiveness of this. Am I right or is this something that it sounds good people believe it’s so, or is it something that there’s research to document that there’s better outcomes with it?
Gary Long: [00:04:12] Yeah, there is a myriad of studies that have been conducted over tens of years, decades that just talk about the efficacy of of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of certain diseases in terms of being able to provide hope and relief for patients that may have cancer as an example, or intractable pain or seizure disorders, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease. So there’s a lot of research that’s been done, but because this has been federally illegal, the research that you would normally see has not been funded by the government. Now the government is also now starting to change its tune in that regard. Our company, we we are actually sponsoring some of those same studies ourselves because we do believe in it. We know there’s a ton of people who have gained benefit from from utilizing it for, again, these types of diseases that I’ve referenced. And we’re certain that it’s going to be an incredible therapy for folks that are in need of it.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:21] Now, for folks that are in need of it, how are. Are they dealing with it right now if they are in Georgia? Is this something that they just have to wait until this comes out or are they going to other states right now? How are they kind of solving this problem?
Gary Long: [00:05:35] Yeah, it’s probably a little bit of all of that. The state of Georgia has a patient registry that’s run by the Department of Public Health. And right now, today, there’s somewhere between 28 and 30,000 people that have already registered. So that when it is available, they will be able to receive a a therapy of medicinal cannabis from their physician. So, yeah, I mean, there’s definitely some pent up demand there. We anticipate that there’s going to be many more patients that will present once it is available for them to purchase. What have they been doing in the past? I mean, you can imagine many of them have been going to other states where it is legal and they have the ability to buy it. I’m sure there’s a population of people that are also buying it on the black market, which isn’t great. And one of the things that I think we will bring, I know that the state is going to help us do this is we’re going to provide a very pure form of the product that is lab tested from by ourselves and then also by the state’s labs that will ensure its efficacy, its purity, its compliance, and so that patients can take comfort in the fact that when we are able to dispense that, our products will be of the highest quality and purity.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:00] Now, is this something that you are growing the cannabis here in Georgia?
Gary Long: [00:07:06] We are, yes. In fact, that was a key stipulation as part of our licensure. We’re located our manufacturing operations is located in Tatton County, which is about an hour west of Savannah. And the town that we’re located in is called Glenville, Georgia. So we are actually manufacturing product today. We are authorized to do that by the state, and we will be ready to have product for patients to purchase in the end of the first quarter, beginning of the second quarter of this year. Now, we are not authorized to dispense that until the state actually approves us to do so. But we’re in a position to be able to start serving patients in a month or so.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:50] And then is the climate in Georgia exceptionally good for growing cannabis, or is it one of those things where that’s not as important? It’s just possible?
Gary Long: [00:08:01] Well, it has dictated by the state. This has to be grown indoors. So it’s a very, very controlled environment. We use the most state of the art irrigation, hydroponic type of systems and lighting to grow extremely pure cannabis. All of the other folks who have actually been awarded a license are going to be required of the same thing to grow indoors. It has to be very secure and we have rules and regulations that we’re going to be following that the state has is close to passing, which will kind of dictate exactly how we’re to operate. So we are in compliance. We will be in compliance. And that’s another thing that patients can take comfort in when they do purchase products from botanical sciences is that we we will be a very compliant and are a very compliant company as it relates to what the state’s going to need from us.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:58] So you’re in control of the growing of the product as well as the distribution, or is it are you. Yes. So you.
Gary Long: [00:09:06] That’s correct. The state has, I think, rightfully so, awarded licenses that are referred to as seed to sale. And what that means for those people in business, I’m sure they will understand it’s a vertically integrated license, meaning we have the ability to grow the product, process the product into its useful form, distribute it and then dispense it. So essentially, going from the ground to a packaged product where somebody can purchase it. Many other states have chosen different approaches where they have vertically integrated license holders, but then they also have certain companies that would just manufacture the product. Other companies would distribute it, and then other companies would then dispense it. I think Georgia’s done it correctly because this ensures a consistent supply chain. And again, it makes it easier on us and it makes it easier on the state to ensure that there is a a high quality product that is completely trackable from the minute it’s planted to the minute a patient ingests it. So that’s going to be of benefit to all of us in the state of Georgia.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:23] Now, how. How are the various distribution points regulated? Are there a finite number of those? Did they say there can only be X number of this, or is it going to be like some things where they’re on every corner?
Gary Long: [00:10:38] Yep. Great. Great question. So there are two classes of license holders in the state. There were six total companies that were selected. There are two which are class one licenses, which is ourselves and another company. There are four class two licenses that are smaller. And I’ll explain the two. Class one licenses have the ability to grow with 100,000 square foot, square feet of capacity, and the class twos have 50,000 square feet of capacity. The delineation between those also dictates the number of dispensaries that you were granted as part of your licensure. As a class one. We were granted five initial owned dispensaries that we could open. And so we are in the process of actually finishing those right now as we speak. So that, again, when we’re authorized to dispense product, we will have the ability to do that for every 10,000 patients that gets added to the registry per the state. We are authorized with another dispensary. I don’t anticipate at least I can speak for botanical sciences. We’re going to be good stewards of the communities that we operate in. And so we’re very excited about the engagement with the patients, the communities that we’re going to be operating in. And we believe this is going to be a really, really good thing for the patients of the state.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:08] So do you have locations for the five kind of mapped out?
Gary Long: [00:12:12] We do. We’re not disclosing that externally just yet, but we’re going to be located, as you would imagine, across the metro Atlanta area and in other large population centers around the state. And as we continue to again add patients to this, we’ve got a plan to essentially be in near every population center in the state. So we’re very excited about that getting going because we do believe there’s a lot of pent up demand that hasn’t put their name on the roster yet for the Department of Public Health, but we anticipate that’s going to increase dramatically over the next several months.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:49] And but there being only five, Georgia is a fairly large state. Is this one of those things where it’s like, I’m going to Costco and I’m buying a big amount of this? Or is it something that I can only get a little bit and I’m going to have to go back every week or so?
Gary Long: [00:13:07] Yeah, no, that’s a great question. And just to clear it up for your audience, the state has only authorized us to provide medicinal cannabis in three delivery methods or packaging forms. So a tincture, which is like an eyedropper bottle that has a measured amount of THC oil capsules which contain the product as well, and topicals. So in the state, there is no authorization for a company like ourselves to provide any other form at this point in time that includes edibles and includes smokable oils. So this truly is being treated as a medicine, which is commendable because I think we’ve if you’ve been around the country and some of these other cities, there’s some abuse that goes on and where you see people walking down the street just openly smoking the product, this will be treated very much like a medicine, like a pharmaceutical therapy. And that’s again going to be great for for patients. Now, over time, will that evolve? More than likely it will evolve. But I can’t speak for what the state necessarily is going to is going to do and when they’re going to do it. But we do interact with the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission on a regular basis, as well as other legislators. And again, we’ll follow whatever guidance they give us. That is kind of a difference about how Georgia is treating this than other states. And also one other thing is that our product, which again is governed by the state, is what’s considered low THC oil. So that’s a 5% concentration or less. So that’s just another bit of information for your audience.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:47] So the people who will benefit will get the health benefits of it, but they won’t get the maybe recreational benefits.
Gary Long: [00:14:57] That’s correct. This is not a recreational market. The way that the process works is you would visit with your physician. That physician would then make a recommendation for you to receive product, which is then needed for you to register with the Department of Public Health. And once you have that registration listed, the Department of Public Health usually takes a week or two to turn around and get you your medicinal cannabis card, which then you will be required to present to us at a dispensary in order to receive product. So it’s a closed loop chain of how patients would receive product or be authorized to receive product. And it seems like a very good approach, at least initially, for giving access to patients around the state.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:47] Now, is this something that’s reciprocal? If I have a license to get cannabis in Georgia, that if I go to another state, I would also be able to get it there? Or is it just exclusive for Georgia?
Gary Long: [00:15:59] Yeah, it’s just exclusive for Georgia. That is something that I think some states have thought about this reciprocal license once you receive your card. But I think for now, my understanding is that Georgia is just very much focused on Georgia, and so are we in serving the patients of the state. And just going back to where we started this conversation, you know, having it been legalized almost eight years ago, there’s a lot of pent up demand and our state has grown tremendously since then as well. So the number of people that are potentially waiting for this as a treatment has grown leaps and bounds.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:39] So what do you need more of? How can we help? Do you need more people to get on the list? You need more people to sign up for your mailing list or get on your website so that you know they exist so that when the time comes, you are able to communicate with them.
Gary Long: [00:16:52] Yeah, I mean, all exact things that are that we’re helping kind of get the word out now ourselves in the state. We’re trying to communicate effectively about the availability. Obviously, our company being more formally introduced at the beginning of this year. Patients can go to our website at Botanical Sciences. We’re also on all the primary social platforms where we actually have these instructions, the very simple instructions for them, if they have one of these indicated conditions that the state is authorized for patients to receive the product, then how they would go about having a conversation with their physician and then essentially going through that process with the Department of Public Health to get their card. So, yes, if they have any questions, they can actually reach us through the website. We’ve got a team of people that are engaging not only with patients, but with a lot of the physician caregivers in the in and across the state to provide education, because again, we are a science based physician led company. And so our true north is serving patients the same way that physicians are the same way that pharmacists are. And that’s where we align ourselves as well. So we’re very excited about it and and just are eager to get going.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:18] And the website is Botanical Sciences within WSJ.com.
Gary Long: [00:18:22] That’s correct.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:24] Well, Gary, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Gary Long: [00:18:29] Thank you, Lee. I appreciate it.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:30] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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