The village of Yellow Springs is among the first Ohio communities to see the beginning of construction on a medical marijuana facility, and while officials are excited about the new business, it’s unclear how the industry could be impacted if Ohio voters approve of recreational use of the drug in November.
Cresco Labs Ohio LLC and several village leaders and residents gathered for the groundbreaking on a cold Thursday morning in the cornfield next to Antioch University.
“This is a long time in the making, actually getting this property developed, but more importantly the group that’s going to be developing here is Cresco Labs out of Illinois,” Village Council President Karen Wintrow told the crowd. “
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“They’ve been great partners so far in working with us … It’s going to be a great economic development opportunity. Jobs for the community, a lot of recognition. We just couldn’t be happier.”
Wintrow said the facility is expected to initially provide about 25 jobs for local residents, and that number could double as Cresco plans to seek approval for a medical marijuana processing facility at the same site.
“Yellow Springs was founded on wellness,” Wintrow said. “People came to the yellow spring in Glen Helen for the healing waters so the idea of a wellness company, a health company, being here is a perfect fit. This facility is going to be sitting adjacent to farm fields in an area that we have really identified that we want to remain agriculture.”
There are more than 20 acres still to be developed at the site. Cresco has agreed to pay for the infrastructure to the site, which includes building roads, installing water, sewer and electric service, said Village Manager Patti Bates.
In June, village officials visited Cresco’s facilities in Illinois. Bates said seeing how Cresco operates allayed any concerns they had regarding the security of the facility to be built off East Enon Road.
“It’s an amazing building they have and the way that they run the different agents of the plant in different sections of the building, it’s pretty impressive,” Bates said.
Charles Bachtell, CEO of Cresco Labs, told the crowd it’s “a big day” for the patients of Ohio, for Yellow Springs and for Cresco Labs.
“The Ohio medical marijuana program is arguably one of the most balanced and best-structured programs that this industry has seen,” Bachtell said. “They did a phenomenal job in taking a look at existing markets around the country that do true medical marijuana programs really well. They took some of the best parts from each of them and they tweaked some of the parts that may have neededa little redoing.”
Not being from Ohio, Bechtell said Cresco officials were not aware of the history of Yellow Springs and its reputation as being a progressive community.
“At the end of the day this program exists for one purpose — To bring a new type of medicine to patients in the state of Ohio,” he said.
Those who were the driving force behind the failed 2015 marijuana legalization issue in Ohio are now backing a plan to put an issue on the November ballot that, if approved by the voters, would make marijuana legal for recreational use.
Bachtell said it’s not clear how his business could be impacted if Ohio voters approve a ballot issue in November that would make marijuana legal for recreational use in the state.
“Honestly we haven’t given it much thought,” he said. “We are a medical cannabis operator and currently we operate only in medical programs. We’ve evaluated Ohio for about a year as a medical program so that’s what we’re focused on right now.”
Michael Ferguson, a military veteran and lifelong Yellow Springs resident, said he is trying to educate fellow veterans about the process of getting access to medical marijuana.
Ferguson said veterans can get a prescription for it through a doctor outside of the VA healthcare system. Ferguson said he’s in favor of making marijuana legal for recreational use, in-part because it would eliminate the problem of drug testing while in a chronic pain program.
“If a veteran takes cannabis for pain and gets drug-tested, then they can take away all his medications,” Ferguson said.
Another veteran, John Helpling, attended the event. Helpling said he’s spent 21 years in the military and served during Desert Shield, Desert Storm as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom. He said now suffers from peripheral myopathy, a painful condition of nerve damage as a result of the surgery he had done on his back.
Helpling said he suffers from chronic pain and the nerve pills he’s been prescribed don’t do enough to ease the pain.
“It’s like a Catch 22 situation right now,” he said. “Medical marijuana is legalized but they say you’re supposed to have an authorized recommendation from a doctor.”
Helpling said he’s not willing to risk getting marijuana from the “black market.”
“You can find it easily, but it’s all black market,” he said. “It’s not regulated. It’s not controlled for purity or quality, and you don’t know what they might mix into it or spray on it. Anything off the street is bad news. I stay away from all that.”