Pubdate: Sun, 23 Jul 2017
Source: Blade, The (Toledo, OH)
Copyright: 2017 The Blade
Author: David Yaffe-Bellany


Kevin Jones lives at 700 Spencer St. He says he sees pros and cons to
using the dilapidated factory across the street to grow marijuana:
jobs and crime.

In 1910, Toledo businessman William Bunting opened a cavernous brass
factory on Spencer Street, just a short distance from the zoo.

Eighty years later, arson badly damaged the building. And today, the
vacant warehouse is a neighborhood eyesore, its facade pockmarked with
broken windows and crumbling bricks.

But soon this once-formidable, now-dilapidated industrial edifice
could take on an unlikely new identity: a greenhouse for medical marijuana.

The old brass factory is one of eight locations in Toledo where
businesses are seeking state approval to grow marijuana.

Across Ohio, 185 companies are competing for two dozen cultivation
licenses, according to a list of applicants the state released this

The Ohio Department of Commerce is required to make the state's
medical marijuana program fully operational by September, 2018.

Kevin Jones lives at 700 Spencer St. He says he sees pros and cons to
using the dilapidated factory across the street to grow marijuana:
jobs and crime.

But for now, the proposed locations of most of the cultivation
facilities remain unclear, because the state did not include those
addresses on its list.

The Blade identified the proposed Toledo sites using zoning notices
that the city issued last month.

One of the applicants for a Toledo site is AgriMed, a
Philadelphia-based pharmaceutical company that already has secured a
license to grow medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

AgriMed wants to turn the Spencer site into a marijuana greenhouse
with an attractive glass exterior and a sophisticated security system,
said Eric Mitchell, AgriMed's medical director.

The project would cost $5 million and generate dozens of long-term

"We're talking about using state-of-the-art glass technology in order
to use natural sunlight," Mr. Mitchell said. "We want it to be
beautiful. We want to do a facade that people will be proud of in
their neighborhood."

The warehouse sits on the edge of a residential neighborhood, across
the street from a row of about a dozen houses. On a recent afternoon,
neighbors expressed a range of feelings about AgriMed, from fear that
a marijuana greenhouse could increase crime to excitement at the
prospect of locally produced weed.

"The building's been here since the beginning of time. It's not
attractive, it's not bringing in any business," said Mario Carter, 36,
who added that marijuana should be grown and he should have a "free

In western Pennsylvania, many locals have hailed AgriMed as an engine
of much-needed economic development. Mr. Mitchell said the company
applied to plant marijuana in Toledo partly because it saw an
opportunity to promote job growth in a struggling region.

But some neighbors are less than eager to have marijuana growing
across the street. Kenneth Hunt, a 62-year-old supermarket butcher who
lives on Spencer, said marijuana will bring crime rather than jobs to
the neighborhood.

"I'm not against people smoking pot. I just don't think that's
something we need," said Mr. Hunt, who said he dabbled in marijuana in
his 20s. "The building will get broken into all the time."

Such concerns are reasonable, but neighbors can expect that companies
applying to plant medical marijuana near residential areas will
provide tight security, said Thomas Haren, a lawyer who writes the
blog Ohio Marijuana Law.

"All of these facilities will be incredibly secure. Many of them will
have 24-hour security staff," Mr. Haren said. "This isn't something
where a high school student will just be able to walk in the front
door and in minutes find him or herself in a room of marijuana plants."

Last year, the Ohio legislature legalized medical marijuana, which can
be used to treat a range of illnesses, from opioid addiction to
cancer. Later this summer, Toledo City Council will review regulations
mandating, among other requirements, that medical marijuana facilities
operate far away from schools and churches. State law still prohibits
recreational use of the drug.

AgriMed is not the only company seeking a license to grow marijuana in
Toledo, but none of the other local applicants are planning to operate
near a residential area. HMS Health, which recently received a license
to grow marijuana in Maryland, is looking to open a facility at 4500
Detroit Ave., in a building that used to house a strip club. And the
multistate cannabis producer Green Thumb Industries has applied to
cultivate a field that runs along a vacant stretch of Jason Street.

GTI Director Pete Kadens, who grew up in nearby Ottawa Hills and has
family in Toledo, said his company plans to build a 50,000-square-foot
facility on the Jason Street property, at a cost of about $10 million.
GTI already has cultivation facilities and retail operations in Nevada
and Illinois, with more on the way in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and
Maryland. The Toledo project ultimately will generate 50 full-time
jobs, according to Mr. Kadens.

"To come back 20 years later, and create good jobs - it makes an
impact," he said.

HMS Managing Director Shakil Siddiqui said his company plans to spend
as much as $15 million on either the Detroit Avenue site or a second
facility on Lint Avenue. He expects the project will create about 30

"I'm a very conservative person, and I would not really have gone into
this business if it was recreational," Mr. Siddiqui said. "We're not
smoking pot. We're providing funds to create great material."

The multimillion-dollar investments promised by AgriMed, GTI, and HMS
are typical of medical marijuana companies nationwide, said Carrie
Roberts, a consultant who advises cultivators. The application process
alone can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and because the
industry is so new, unexpected roadblocks often emerge.

For those reasons, the two dozen state licenses in Ohio will most
likely go to businesses with robust financial plans and experience in
the medical-marijuana industry, Ms. Roberts said.

"A best practice is making sure that you not only have the financing
that meets the minimum threshold but to have something in reserve for
all those unknowns," she said. "We've seen businesses go under because
they don't expect the hurdles that lie ahead."

In its heyday, the factory on Spencer was celebrated as a model for
the industry, an elegantly designed facility incorporating all the
latest brass-making technology. Now, neighbors say, squatters camp
near the building and rats scurry beneath a prominent "For Lease" sign.

As she parked her car around the corner from the warehouse, Traci
Nickelson, 48, shrugged at the prospect of a marijuana facility in the

After all, she said, it could hardly worsen the quality of life in an
area so crime-ravaged that restaurants are reluctant to deliver pizza
there after dark.

"If it's for medical use, I wouldn't have a problem with it," Ms.
Nickelson said. "It's not a very good neighborhood anyway."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt