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Washington County Man Looks To Open Medical Marijuana Growing Facility

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An entrepreneur in Washington County is hoping to secure a license from New York state to grow marijuana for medical use. As WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, the plan has already received praise from local officials.

On a once-working farm, in a row of structures formerly used to grow mushrooms, just outside the village of Cambridge, Ted Burdnt is hoping to use the facility for a new purpose.

Berndt purchased the 177-acre farm in Jackson in 2013. While he’s already leased some of the property out for use by local dairy farmers, a maple syrup producer, and a solar array operator, Berndt hopes to be granted a license from the state to grow cannabis for New York’s new medical marijuana law.

Berndt, who has named his business the Washington County Agri-Business Park, said he came up with the idea when refurbishing the 12-acre facility.

“We felt that it was highly adaptable for cannabis production. We have 24 SIP panels – or structural insulated  panel grow buildings – with a capability to grow two tiers, to possibly take us up to 23,000 square feet.”

Berndt says his facility, if approved, would be one of the largest grow buildings in North America.

Draft regulations for New York’s medical marijuana law were released in December, and are currently under a 45-day comment period.

According to the law, the five selected medical marijuana growers would also distribute it through dispensaries.

Berndt said he’s still waiting for the state to issue its application, but based on the final regulations his business will make determinations on where to operate dispensaries.

“I would assume that a business plan incorporates getting medications to patients in larger urban areas throughout the state, but still having some capability to get medications to patients in rural areas. It has to be part of any business plan or operation plan. So there’s are some of the questions we actually need to have answered.”

Berndt has already set about gathering community support. In December he took a group of local and state officials on a tour of his facility and presented his vision.

State Senator Betty Little, who voted in support of New York’s medical marijuana law last year, said she believes the property the business is located on is ample enough for Berdnt to provide the necessary security as required by law. She also praised the location, situated between the Capital Region and the North Country.

“Close to the Capital District, close to more of a major population, so he could also head north if he needed to be, and I do think he’s done a lot of research on this.”

The officials also see the facility, if awarded a license, as a means of economic development.

Assemblywoman Carrier Woerner said she views Berdnt’s vision as a job creator.

“Based on the numbers they’re projecting it could also be a very significant employer in the region, so I think that’s a very positive thing for all of us,” said Woerner.

Deanna Derway, president of the Washington County Local Development Corporation, said the business would fit in well in an area known for its farming history.

“Washington County is ideal for it because we are an agriculturally based county, so I think it would go very well with what we do here in the county.”

In July, New York became the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana. With the public comment period remaining open on the draft regulations, the program to allow patients with life-threatening illnesses access to the drug is scheduled to begin in January 2016.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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