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Wilmington marijuana facility would be job driver, investor says

The investors behind a plan to build a marijuana cultivation facility in Wilmington envision five harvests of medical cannabis each year, employing an initial 50 to 60 people and driven by what in time will be a $40 million investment.

“I don’t think anyone else in Ohio comes close to what we bring to the table,” said Ohio financier Jimmy Gould, partner in CannAscend Ohio LLC.

Gould, with financier partner Ian James and former United Nation’s Children’s Emergency Fund Ambassador Bill Brisben, believe the “campus”-type facility can employ more than 220 workers when fully operational, Gould said.

RELATED: Large medical marijuana grow operation planned for Wilmington

“My hope for Wilmington is continued revitalization of the community, anywhere from 220 to 300 jobs over the next six years,” he said.

Dr. Suzanne Sisley has been hired to be the partnership’s Ohio medical director, the first time the organization has made that announcement, Gould said.

Sisley is a familiar name in marijuana research circles. The University of Arizona “abruptly” fired her in 2014 from a prominent position as a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, according to the Los Angeles Times and other media.

“Sisley charges she was fired after her research — and her personal political crusading — created unwanted attention for the university from legislative Republicans who control its purse strings,” the Times wrote in 2014.

RELATED: Ohio sets new rules for medical marijuana use

The Wilmington Community Improvement Corp. has a land contract with CannAscend Ohio, said David Raizk, executive director of the corporation and a former Wilmington mayor.

The facility would be built on a 19-acre lot on Davids Drive near the Wilmington Air Park, if the group secures state licensing to grow medical cannabis.

CannAscend said it will apply for one of 12 of Ohio’s Level I cultivation facility licenses, which would allow the company to build a 25,000 square-foot marijuana cultivation facility.

RELATED: Ohio working on marijuana seed to sale tracking

Over time, the facility will be expanded to 50,000 square feet, then 75,000 square feet, “as state law allows,” the organization pledged.

“I think a lot of this will be a learning curve for the industry, because I think the industry is changing constantly,” Gould told the Dayton Daily News. “The goal is to get a better plant, a better yield and one that is free from contamination. That’s probably the most important thing I can say, because a lot of the market does have contaminated product.”

Asked if there were other marijuana-growing facilities elsewhere in the country that support a similar number of jobs, he didn’t name any.

RELATED: Would you pay $50 a year to use medical marijuana in Ohio?

But he said, “I do think it’s very doable as a matter of fact.”

“The growth of plant-based pharmaceuticals represents an important new trend in medical science,” Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth said in CannAscend’s statement. “The resulting jobs and potential for greater research opportunities offers important prospects for partnerships with area colleges that have a focus on agriculture science, chemistry and biology.”

Ohio legalized pot for medical uses last year, and Gov. John Kasich created a regimen giving three government agencies control over it. The law still forbids smoking marijuana or home growth.

Cultivator rules are expected to be adopted by the state before May 6. The formal application process for licenses is expected to follow.

That will be key, Gould said.

The facility would use a hydroponic approach, growing without soil, Gould said.

He hopes to have a building started in September, with six months set aside to build. Cannabis growing cycles will take about 10 weeks with five harvests a year.

The facility will not include a dispensary on site, he said.

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