FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — The company that will soon start running Mineral County’s first medical cannabis cultivation facility says its operation will bring more jobs to the area, and won’t do anything to diminish residents’ safety.
Mountaineer Integrated Care was named by West Virginia’s Office of Medical Cannabis Friday afternoon as one of the first 10 companies awarded a permit to start growing the plant for medicinal use and processing within the state. It announced its intent to purchase property in the Fort Ashby Business & Technology Park in February.
While no licenses for processing have been awarded, Patrick Nightingale, Mountaineer’s director of patient and community outreach, said Wednesday that the company has applied for one, and based on their recent success are “cautiously optimistic” that they’ll receive that permit as well.
Nightingale said the processing licenses will be the next awarded.
“The cultivation license is a very difficult one to win, and we feel really confident with our application obviously since we won that license,” Nightingale said. “With a little bit of luck, we’ll be bringing in not only cultivation opportunities to Fort Ashby and Mineral County, but also processing employment opportunities.”
The cultivation facility will create around 50 jobs, according to a press release issued by the company, and Nightingale said during the interview that more could be added should the processing license come through.
Fort Ashby was the right choice for “a number of reasons,” Nightingale said.
Local officials like Mineral County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Kevin Clark and Jim Linsenmeyer of the Eastern Panhandle’s regional economic development office were easy to work with, Nightingale said, and “very receptive to our plans and ideas.”
The business park, he added, suits the company’s needs for both cultivation and processing, and Fort Ashby’s low crime rate was very attractive as well. They take safety as seriously as the economics, Nightingale said, and “fully understand” the black market value the plant possesses.
“We are committed to doing this safely, to ensuring that there is no illegal theft or diversion from our facility, to protect the children from possible access to cannabis illegally diverted from our facility,” Nightingale said.
Nightingale noted that none of their affiliates in other states have had “a single incident” that required state regulators to step in, and that the company has developed a robust set of safeguards to ensure the same.
Among the tenets of their diversion prevention plan, Nightingale said, is employee education and restricting access to certain parts of the building as needed. Not everyone will have “unfettered access throughout the facility,” he said, and they’ve also got means of tracking plants from seed to sale. They’ll also retain all relevant data for state review.
“Literally, this thing is going to be harder to get into or out of than a bank vault,” Nightingale said.
“We intend to be good neighbors, good job providers and we cannot wait to provide high-quality medical cannabis to West Virginia’s patient population,” Nightingale said.
Clark congratulated MIC on receiving the permit in a statement to the Times-News.
“During the planning stages and negotiation on the shell building, MIC has been a great partner to work with,” Clark wrote via email. “We look forward to continuing to work with MIC to completion of the project to create jobs and enhance economic development in Mineral County and the surrounding area.”
Speaking by phone Wednesday afternoon, Commissioner Richard “Doc” Lechliter said that while they had some initial concerns, the board has since embraced the cultivation plant. Representatives from MIC met with the health department and the commissioners to get permission to apply, Lechliter said, per state requirements.
“It may not have been the type of business that was necessarily our first choice, but it’s coming and we think we should take advantage of it,” Lechliter said. “We’re satisfied it was one of those chosen and hope it will provide some good jobs for our local residents.”
The company’s security plans, along with the economic potential, helped convince the commissioners that the business would be a good fit for the area, Lechliter said.
“It’s a very secure facility, not like you might think of someone growing marijuana out in a field some place,” Lechliter said. “Everything is secured. It’s controlled, so we’re fine with that. … It seems that there’s some benefit for people who use the product, and if it helps people and gives us some jobs, we’re satisfied and pleased with it.”
Follow staff writer Lindsay Renner-Wood on Twitter @LindsayRenWood.
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