Companies have high hopes for growing medical pot in Youngstown

People who live in and near the city have mixed views on whether a marijuana grow business should come to Youngstown

FILE - In this file photo taken Jan. 13, 2015, marijuana plants sit under powerful lamps in a growing facility in Arlington, Wash. Washington launched its second-in-the-nation legal marijuana market with just a handful of stores selling high-priced pot to long lines of customers. A year later, the state has about 160 shops open, tax revenues have soared past expectations and sales top $1.4 million per day. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – One of the largest crowds to attend a city council meeting in recent years showed up Monday evening to hear five companies pitch their plans for growing medical marijuana in Youngstown.

Each company had about 15 minutes to present their case to 50 people in the audience and answer questions as to why they’re best for the operation. All are hoping to be chosen as one of two dozen grow sites in the state.

Medical marijuana growing operations promise to deliver on job creation and tax revenue for the city.

“The challenge is to try to find a methodology for distribution, manufacturing, and selling of these products that is safe,” said Brian Kessler, with Riviera Creek.

Mahoning Valley Agriculture started off, followed by Riviera Creek, Silver Rapids, and Ohio Grown Medicine — which plans to build on Logan Avenue.

“If we are on that site, I think it’s pretty clear that we’re going to do well by the neighborhood around it,” Les Hollis said.

Ohio Grown Medicine — whose plan was presented by a Chicago-based consultant and Cleveland-area investor — said they chose Youngstown because of its diversity and because Cleveland has a moratorium on growing marijuana.

Lastly, Herb Washington presented the plan for Fast Track Group. Washington, who is a McDonald’s franchise owner, said his partners from New York — Controlled MedAg — will provide the technology to grow not only marijuana, but possibly vegetables as well.

“I’ve assembled a team that is beyond reproach in terms of their experience, their expertise, their track record,” he said.

Washington warned that no one knows how fast marijuana is going to grow. He said prescriptions in New York are not being written at the rate that was anticipated.

His group, along with Mahoning Valley Agriculture have possible locations but wouldn’t say where.

Riviera Creek — headed by Boardman’s Daniel Kessler and his uncle, Brian — has plans to build on Crescent Street.

Reverend Gary Frost listened to each presentation but wasn’t sold.

“This is insanity. We are burying our children because of the use of heroin and we’re opening up, broadening the door that leads them there. This is pure insanity.”

Councilman Nate Pinkard, though, does not have the same concerns.

“I’m pretty comfortable that the state has enough security in place that we don’t have to worry about it falling into the wrong hands,” he said.

People who live in and near the city have mixed views on whether a marijuana grow business should come to Youngstown.

Evie Richards supports the idea and has personal experience to back her reasoning.

“I know it helps a lot of people. I know it helped my grandma before she passed. She was battling with cancer, but it helped her to ease her pain,” Richards said.

Teri Dewey is concerned about the potential for abuse and those who are already using marijuana for non-medical purposes.

“I understand people need it to help battle the symptoms that they have from their illnesses and that would be great if they use it, but I am concerned about it being abused like so many things,” she said.

Once a business is selected, the medical marijuana program should be up and running by September of 2018.

Youngstown Mayor John McNally has already said he supports the idea of a company starting a medical marijuana growing business in the city. 

What do you think? Let us know how you feel about the idea of a medical marijuana company coming to Youngstown in our Facebook opinion poll:

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