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Washington County Approves Siting Of Medical Marijuana Facility

Lucas Willard

Washington County has given its approval to a proposed medical marijuana growing facility intending to set up shop there. 

The Washington County Board of Supervisors unanimously supported two measures Friday related to the cultivation of medical marijuana.

The first supported the siting of a medical marijuana cultivation center in the county under New York’s Compassionate Care Act. Supervisors say the measure recognized the county’s agricultural history, the need for jobs, and potential benefit from excise and sales tax revenues.

The second measure was in support of a project by Compassionate Relief Centers of New York, Inc. to operate a growing facility at the Washington County Agri-Business Park, the site of a former mushroom farm on Route 313 in the town of Jackson.

Ted Berndt is President of Compassionate Relief Centers.

“There’s a rich tradition of agriculture here in Washington County, also medical device. And we think the future is plant-based medicine.”

Berndt, along with his partner Stephen Lulla, have been working to gather support for their business from local communities as New York readies its final guidelines for the cultivation and distribution of the drug.

The company is hoping to open 4 dispensaries throughout the state. Company CFO Stephen Lulla said if his business was awarded a cultivation and distribution license from the state it would be able to start right away.

“We anticipate we can start putting seeds in the ground, in the soil within two months. And then it’s pretty much a three-month growth cycle, and then New York doesn’t allow flowers. Everything would have to be processed into a medicinal form. There’s no smoking of flowers in New York State.”

Under New York’s law, medical cannabis will be available by January 1st, 2016.

Cambridge supervisor Catherine Fedler was enthusiastic in her support for the project.

“These guys have been very aggressive right from the get-go. They’ve worked very hard to contact all of the local leaders and all of the local leaders here and at the state level. And they seem like they’ve been working very hard to do their homework and do it the best they can.”

Jackson supervisor Alan Brown thinks siting a medical marijuana growing facility is a smart move for the county and would benefit those in need of treatment that cannot yet be purchased legally in New York.

Brown was confident the project on Route 313 would also be secure.

“As far as I can tell, there’s no one in the town of Jackson that’s worried about the security. The state of New York monitors the security, approves the security plan.”

Berndt said he’s continuing to prepare as Compassionate Relief Centers awaits the state’s Request for Proposals.

“Next week we meet with law enforcement here in Washington County with both the Sheriff and the state police and Public Safety. We’re doing some other things as far as rounding-out our managing team and working on some other things as far as a labor peace agreement.”

No members of the public in attendance at the Board of Supervisors meeting voiced opposition to either measure.

In neighboring Warren County, the company Etain is also vying for one of New York’s five licenses to grow medical marijuana from a facility off Route 9 in Chester.

Also at Friday’s Washington County Board of Supervisors meeting the board passed a resolution to allow the sale of sparklers and other “sparkling devices.” Last November Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the law lifting the ban on sparklers which can now be sold between December 26th through January 1st and June 1st  through July 5th. Local governments must approve the sale and use of sparklers.

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