Former Pfizer site in Puerto Rico picked up by medical marijuana producer

Looks like unloading surplus manufacturing sites to the cannabis industry is turning into a budding business for pharma. At the same time Novartis was negotiating a deal to sell a Colorado plant to a CBD producer, a former Pfizer site was leased to a to a medical marijuana supplier. 

Vireo Health says it has leased a 40,000 square foot former Pfizer site in Cruce Dávila Business Park, in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico to house its cultivation and processing operations.

“We are thrilled to expand into the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, one of the largest pharmaceutical hubs in the world,” Vireo CEO Kyle Kingsley, M.D., said in a statement. “This expansion will give us access to the island’s deep pool of talented professionals, create a wide variety of jobs, and allow us to help many more patients.”

RELATED: Novartis sells Colorado site to maker of CBD products

A Pfizer spokeswoman said it had earlier sold the site in Cruce Dávila to another company. It says it still has sites in Puerto Rico in Barceloneta, Guayama and Vega Baja. 

Vireo spokesperson Albe Zakes said in an email that surplus pharma facilities are ideal for cannabis companies. "We require many of the same types of machinery and outfitting – strong security systems, clean rooms, testing facilities, laboratories,"

The lease agreement came the same week that Novartis closed a deal to sell its Sandoz plant in Broomfield, Colorado to a Colorado CBD maker. Mile High Labs says it paid Novartis $18.75 million for the 400,000-square-foot production facility near Boulder, along with all of the equipment. 

Mile High will manufacture private-label CBD products at the facility. A spokesman said it expects to be up and running with 100 employees in a few months and hopes to hire some of the former Sandoz employees. 

“Many analysts have been openly wondering when pharma would take over the CBD industry, but what if the opposite were true?” Mile High founder Stephen Mueller said in a statement about the deal.

Pharma has a lot of excess manufacturing capacity that it has been idling. Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan called 2018 a transformative year in manufacturing for the Swiss company which closed or sold eight facilities and restructured eight others, whacking about 2,000 jobs in the process. Teva has closed a slew of plants in the last two years to cut costs. 

Bristol-Myers Squibb this month said it was selling a plant in Anagni, Italy to Catalent, which will take on 700 employees. The facility makes a wide variety of products including cancer and cardiology drugs, which Catalent will continue to produce for Bristol-Myers.