Cresco Labs facility taking shape
- Published: May 24, 2018
Construction continues apace at Cresco Labs in Yellow Springs, as the first medical marijuana grower in Ohio to break ground on a cultivation facility looks to become the first to bring its product to the state’s new medical marijuana market, which opens Sept. 8.
Utilities are complete and a partial shell of Cresco’s $6.3 million, 50,000-square-foot facility is now erected on eight acres of a Village-owned industrial park on Dayton Street.
In a statement this week, Cresco leaders said although poor weather had slowed their progress, they are now moving ahead quickly to complete the interior greenhouse and begin planting a crop that takes about three months to mature.
“The construction process is moving forward full steam ahead,” the statement read. “We are materially on schedule but have experienced slight delays because of the wet weather and soil conditions over the winter.”
The state law legalizing medical marijuana, passed in 2016, mandates that the market opens on Sept. 8, but state regulators have been slow to review and approve new licenses, with some speculating that the deadline could be extended.
Cresco is still waiting to hear whether its two additional licenses will be granted — one for marijuana processing and one to operate a dispensary. Since the Yellow Springs facility was designed with significant space for processing, Cresco is framing the structure but waiting until getting approved to finish it, spokesperson Jason Erkes said this week.
“We are one of the most experienced growers in the state so we are expecting we will get it, but we can’t go too far down the path,” Erkes said.
A manufacturing license would allow Cresco to turn the cannabis buds, flowers and leaves it grows into oils, tinctures, patches and edibles onsite. Forty such licenses are available statewide.
The dispensary license would give Cresco the ability to open a retail location, but by law it cannot be located at its cultivation site. Cresco has instead applied to open dispensaries in Montgomery, Ashtabula, Franklin and Jefferson counties.
Previously, Cresco received one of the state’s 12 large-scale cultivator licenses in a field of over 100 applicants, allowing the company 25,000 feet of cultivation space in its first year.
A Yellow Springs dispensary?
However, a dispensary could open at 115 Brookside Drive, the former site of Community Physicians of Yellow Springs, if the company applying, Mother Grows Best, is granted one of the state’s 60 dispensary licenses. The sale of the property, listed by Dunphy Real Estate, is contingent upon the license approval.
A total of 370 dispensary applications were received, according to the state’s Medical Marijuana Control Program. By law only one dispensary is allowed in a tri-county area including Greene, Madison and Fayette counties, where eight companies have applied.
According to state records, Mother Grows Best was incorporated in Dublin, Ohio, as an LLC last year. Marla Dorf co-owns the company with Lisa Axonovitz, according to an application with the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, and Robert Axonovitz, a physician based in the Toledo area, is the company’s chief medical officer. The company is seeking dispensary licenses in four other Ohio counties. A message sent to an email address of an individual connected to the company was not returned by press time.
While Yellow Springs could host two medical marijuana facilities, a growing group of nearby communities have banned the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana within their borders, including Huber Heights, Xenia, Miamisburg, Oakwood and Springboro. Communities with temporary bans and now discussing permanent bans are Kettering and Beavercreek, where four of the tri-county’s eight pending dispensary licenses are seeking to locate.
Some physicians to recommend
Yellow Springs residents interested in taking medical marijuana may have to travel outside of the village to find a medical practitioner who can recommend them. However, at least two physicians linked to the village do plan to get certified to recommend medical marijuana.
Physicians must first acquire certification from the State Medical Board of Ohio to recommend medical marijuana to qualifying patients. Only state-licensed medical doctors, MDs, and doctors of osteopathy, DOs, may apply for the certificate, which requires two hours of training annually. Doctors of chiropractic, DCs, cannot apply for the certificate, according to Yellow Springs Chiropractic this week.
Patients, meanwhile, need a recommendation from a certified physician to apply for their medical marijuana patient card from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which they can take to a dispensary to purchase cannabis products.
None of the doctors at Community Physicians of Yellow Springs will be seeking the certification in a decision made by the clinic’s parent company, Kettering Health Network, according to the clinic this week. Elizabeth Long, a Kettering Health Network spokesperson, said the company has concerns about medical marijuana because it is still illegal at the federal level.
“Although medical marijuana has been legalized in the state, under federal law, marijuana of any kind, whether medical or recreational, is still illegal,” Long said. “We have no plan to provide training for medical marijuana to our physicians at the present time.”
Yellow Springs Primary Care’s physician Dr. Donald Gronbeck will also not seek certification even though he is not opposed to the treatment, according to his office. He instead plans to refer patients to a certified physician.
But Dr. Suzanne Croteau, an osteopath and homeopath whose clinic was formerly located in Yellow Springs, is working towards her certification, according to Bev Francis at her Beavercreek office this week.
“This is something that Dr. Croteau believes in,” Francis said.
However, instead of contacting Croteau’s office directly, interested patients should visit Patient Ohio, a consortium of certified Ohio doctors, at its website pfohio.com. There, patients can pre-qualify for a medical marijuana card before scheduling an appointment with Croteau for an in-depth, in person screening.
Croteau is currently working through a 10-hour course and hopes to become certified by June, according to Francis.
One local physician, who works at The Hope 4 U clinic in Fairborn, has already received her certificate to recommend medical marijuana and has begun seeing patients at her clinic.
The physician, Dr. Kathleen Glover, said there are several requirements patients must fulfill before receiving a medical marijuana card from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. The first important requirement is that prospective patients establish a relationship with the physician who will be making the recommendation.
“There are certain medical conditions where [marijuana] absolutely helps,” she said. “I feel obligated to help my patients.”
Glover added that medical marijuana can be helpful where “standard medical practices haven’t given patients relief.”
“For some people a medical standard of care works, but for others, medications and treatments endorsed by the traditional medical community do not help,” she said. “This is another option.”
Seizure disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain are three of the 21 qualifying conditions that the State Medical Board of Ohio has outlined for certified physicians to recommend marijuana, Glover said. Part of the simple intake procedure at her clinic includes a review of documents diagnosing the qualifying condition.
The full list of conditions that physicians may recommend medical marijuana for includes: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury and ulcerative colitis.
Cresco’s future plans
While Cresco is preparing for Ohio’s budding medical marijuana market, the Illinois-based company has been busy cultivating and selling cannabis in neighboring Pennsylvania, where medical marijuana sales began in February. Cresco has also applied for permits in three other states. Cresco already operates three cultivation facilities in Illinois, where it is was formed in response to that state’s 2014 law legalizing medical marijuana.
In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana is taking off, with nearly 20,000 registered patients in three months, about half the amount that Illinois has seen in three years, according to Erkes, Cresco’s spokesperson. Cresco’s products were the only ones on the shelf when Pennsylvania’s market opened, Erkes said.
One factor in Pennsylvania’s fast growth compared to Illinois has been its inclusion of chronic pain in a list of qualifying conditions, Erkes explained. That gives him an indication the market’s growth in Ohio may be as robust, he said.
“Ohio does list chronic pain, which is huge, so I think Ohio would be in line with Pennsylvania,” Erkes said.
Cresco CEO Charlie Bachtell previously told the News that its Yellow Springs facility would create about 30 jobs to start with some 75 to 100 temporary construction jobs. At the end of the company’s first phase, when the facility is fully operational, about 60 to 65 jobs are expected, Bachtell said.
However, after its first and second years of operation, Cresco could add another 25,000 square feet of growing space each year, with 35 to 40 more full-time workers added at each time.
“Should we be permitted to expand to 75,000 [square feet] of cultivation, the employee number would be north of 150,” according to a Cresco statement this week.
Cresco purchased an eight-acre site from the Village last year for $20,000 per acre. It also agreed to pay to bring utilities to the site. Earlier this year, Cresco’s parcel was changed from the northwest to the northeast corner of the 35-acre industrial park to reduce the amount, and cost, of utilities, and not because it was too close to the Assembly for God church on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road, according to Cresco this week.
“At all times, our property boundary was more than 500 feet from the church property,” the statement read. “The relocation provided the best design of infrastructure and utility layout for the village to utilize the rest of the parcel for future businesses.”
Village Manager Patti Bates recently told the News that the new parcel location benefits both Cresco and the Village.
“It was less for them to install and less for us to maintain,” Bates said.
Beyond the creation of jobs, Cresco’s facility would increase income and property tax revenue to the Village, the News has reported. After phase one, with an estimated 65 workers, the Village could realize an additional $37,500 annually in income tax, according to former Assistant Village Manager/Finance Director Melissa Dodd. Property tax benefits are harder to gauge, according to Dodd. Based on the construction figure of $6.3 million for the first phase, the total new property tax could be as high as $171,694 annually, which would yield the Yellow Springs schools $99,000 more each year and the Village an additional $24,000 annually.