Medical Marijuana Could Grow In Rock Island

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By the end of 2014, Rock Island could house one of Illinois’ 22 medical marijuana cultivation centers.

In recent weeks, Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries, or GTI, approached the city of Rock Island about buying a 10-acre city-owned parcel of land at 8153 51st St. W.

Rock Island alderman approved the sale agreement for $135,000 Monday night and GTI said it plans to invest up to $10 million in the industrial park site off Andalusia Road in southwest Rock Island.

“It’s an absolutely perfect site for them and out of the way of everything,” said Mayor Dennis Pauley, adding that he sees the deal as $10 million to $15 million investment. “You’re always concerned about ramifications, but this is something that’s being legalized by the state of Illinois.”

State officials approved guidelines for a four-year pilot Illinois medical marijuana program July 15 and companies interested in developing cultivation centers and dispensaries immediately reached out to cities throughout the state.

The state will grant licenses for 22 cultivation centers and 60 cultivation centers and each state police district will get one cultivation center. The state will begin accepting applications in September.

Ben Kovler, founding principal for GTI, said his team surveyed the entire state before reaching out to Rock Island.

“It’s about the sick patients, but this is really a partnership with the community,” said Kovler, adding that his company would begin construction as soon as possible if they “win” a license from the state. “It’s hard not to put words like competition into this.”

Growers must pay the state $25,000 to apply. If accepted, they must pay a $200,000 licensing fee and an annual renewal fee is set at $100,000. Companies also must prove they have access to $2 million to ensure their financial stability.

Cultivation centers must be located at least 2,500 feet away from areas zoned for residential use and from schools, day care centers and group homes, according to new state rules.

Jeff Eder, community and economic development director for Rock Island, said the city received inquiries from more than six businesses seeking land to launch medical marijuana-growing facilities, but GTI was the only one that consistently remained in communication over the past few weeks.

“With the setback requirements, it makes it very difficult for some of our neighbors to have an area within city limits that meets state requirements,” he said. “They (GTI) asked about this general area because they knew it would qualify.”

Kovler said creation of a 30,000-square-foot cultivation center would quickly generate 30 jobs, and could potentially employ 100 people in an 80,000 square-foot facility. GTI plans to hire locally and pay staff at a cultivation center between $12 and $20 per hour.

State requires growing facilities to be up and running six months after a license is granted.

The company has aligned itself with The Clinic Colorado, a Denver-based medical and recreational marijuana dispensary.

“We wanted to ensure the state and everybody else that we know what we’re doing,” Kovler said.

GTI has leased a 100,000-square-foot building in Normal near the Mitsubishi Motors North America for a potential medical marijuana cultivation center.

Kovler said that state law permits each licensed company to own or be affiliated with up to three cultivation centers.

Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley said he has been a supporter of medical marijuana since the state approved the program, he did not expect to deal with this issue in his second term as mayor.

“It’s definitely a societal change, but I think it’s also a change in the medical world because we’re talking about relief for people who are in severe pain,” Pauley said. “If they can get some relief from this they should be allowed to.”

by Jack Cullen – link to source