A healthy marijuana plant in a garden.

A medical marijuana growing site could come to the Theisen Industrial Park near The Plains if plans work out for a Westerville, Ohio-based company.

The Athens County Port Authority voted April 19 to offer Black Elk, LLC, a six-month option to purchase eight acres of land in the Theisen Industrial Park for about $8,500 per acre, according to Blake Elk co-founder Chris Vince.

Vince said Monday that Black Elk hopes to bring a 25,000-square-foot greenhouse facility to grow medical marijuana to the industrial park, though he said Black Elk is still awaiting a license from the state to allow it to cultivate medical marijuana.

The Ohio Legislature approved a law last year to legalize use of medical marijuana in Ohio. However, the state is still in the process of setting up the regulatory structure; what’s clear is that the number of permits for dispensaries and growing facilities will be limited, at least initially. 

A subsidiary of Black Elk – Black Elk Biotech – has an office in the OU Innovation Center, and has entered into a $1.85 million, five-year research agreement with the Edison Biotechnology Institute to identify and evaluate the therapeutic effects of natural products, including cannabis, on neuronal disease, inflammatory diseases and cancer. The NEWS further explores that research in this companion piece.

Vince said that initially, there’s a potential to add 28 full-time jobs and 10 part-time jobs with the greenhouse facility, with salaries ranging from $20,000 to $100,000. He said a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot administrative building will be added at some point, adding the potential for processing the marijuana into usable oils and tinctures. Processing requires a separate license from the state.

“We would develop all of our plants and all of our processing and particular medicine with the guidance of Edison Biotechnology (Institute), and what they have found out with the research to obviously create the most effective and best medicines for the public,” Vince said.

EBI has not yet received state approval to begin its research on marijuana, however.

Vince said that EBI is a perfect partner because of its research facilities, talented researchers and its location at a nationally significant university.

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