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Medical marijuana firm scouts Yellow Springs site

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A medical marijuana company has expressed interest in locating a cultivation and production facility in Yellow Springs.

At Village Council’s Monday meeting, Council President Karen Wintrow stated that she had received an inquiry late last week from Illinois-based company Cresco Labs, which grows and processes medical cannabis at three locations in that state. The company is seeking to open a facility in Ohio, and has identified Yellow Springs as one possible site.

“I feel like it’s an opportunity the Village should explore,” Wintrow said at the meeting.

The most probable site for the potential facility would be a portion of the Village-owned CBE land, according to Wintrow at the meeting. The proposed facility would require around six acres, and the 35-acre CBE land is the only parcel of suitable size within village limits, she said. Village officials began initial discussions about the opportunity with company representatives on Monday.

Wintrow said on Tuesday that she believed the opportunity fit with many villagers’ stated economic development vision for the CBE land, as medical marijuana represents a non-polluting, agriculture-related industry that would bring jobs and expand the local tax base.

“It fits into the wheelhouse of our strengths,” she said.

The Village has not been marketing the CBE property, she added. The Cresco proposal is one of two recent inquiries the Village has received related to medical marijuana operations.

Based on the Village’s preliminary discussions with Cresco representatives, the estimated $5 million facility could bring 65 jobs with an average salary of $40,000 to the area, according to Wintrow.

The company’s stated interest is in purchasing land for the facility, and it is not seeking tax abatements or other incentives from the Village, she clarified.

The Cresco opportunity comes during a still-unfolding process to seek citizen input on potential development of the CBE land. The Economic Sustainability Commission, or ESC, led a citizen forum in March to gather public input, with a second forum tentatively scheduled for June 28, based on discussions at Council’s Monday meeting. The ESC also conducted an online survey of villagers’ preferences this spring, with a split between those favoring some form of economic development activity and those favoring agriculture, greenspace or other uses.
The June forum will come too late for discussion of the Cresco opportunity, however. The company is applying to the state of Ohio for a cultivating and processing license, and that deadline is late June, according to company investor Chris Schrimpf in a phone call with the News Tuesday.

While the company is currently discussing potential sites with several communities across Ohio, it will only be submitting one application to the state in June with one identified site for its facility, according to Schrimpf. Yellow Springs is being considered because it is a “community that understands the potential for the medical cannabis industry,” he said. Should the Village and Cresco come to an agreement regarding the purchase of land for locating a facility here, Yellow Springs would be the only site named on the company’s application, he added.

A decision from the state on the application could come in September, with construction potentially beginning soon thereafter, according to Wintrow.

Wintrow said at Monday’s meeting that Council was making the Cresco proposal public at the earliest possible opportunity to allow for citizen feedback. Council does not currently have plans to organize a meeting for this purpose. But the matter will be discussed at a special meeting open to the public next Tuesday, May 23, at 1 p.m. in Council chambers. According to the agenda for that meeting, there will be a reading of a resolution authorizing Village Manager Patti Bates to enter into negotiations for a potential sale of Village land. Council discussed the value of the property in executive session this Tuesday, according to Wintrow.
Citizen backing is essential to the proposal moving ahead because the company is unlikely to locate in a community opposed to a medical cannabis facility, she said.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Ohio in September 2016. The state is in the process of developing rules and guidelines for cultivating, processing, testing and dispensing medical cannabis, according to the website of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program. Illinois, where Cresco is based, legalized medical marijuana in 2013.
Schrimpf said on Tuesday that he is one of a group of Ohio-based investors that has partnered with Cresco to bring its medical cannabis manufacturing model to Ohio through the establishment of an Ohio company staffed by area workers. Based in Columbus, Schrimpf is a Republican communications consultant who served as communications director for Ohio Governor John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to the website Ballotpedia.

The proposed Ohio facility would consist of an industrial warehouse space in which the cannabis would be cultivated indoors under controlled conditions. The facility would have “tight security,” Schrimpf said, though asked about the potential for crime, he said no crimes had occurred at the company’s Illinois facilities during their two years of operation.

In addition to bringing jobs to Yellow Springs, Schrimpf said the company would plan to contribute to the community through volunteerism and other means.

“We’re excited to bring jobs to Yellow Springs and partner with the community,” he said.

Wintrow said Tuesday that the Village is just beginning its due diligence, which includes talking to neighbors adjoining the CBE property, clarifying zoning issues and getting a read from the community about the proposal. The Village’s project to extend infrastructure to the CBE land’s entrance should be finished soon, she said, though utilities and roads would need to be extended into the CBE property before any potential future construction could begin.

“We’re still figuring out the steps,” she said.

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