When Nancy Crissinger bought a couple of acres of land and a small home adjacent to an obsolete Cold War-era Nike Ajax missile site in Eastlake, Ohio, 15 years ago, she never imagined the abandoned building would one day be transformed into a sophisticated cannabis grow site.
But Crissinger has no problem with her new neighbors, Buckeye Relief, Ohio’s first fully operational marijuana grow facility.
“It’s certainly better than having an abandoned building there,” Crissinger, a medical transcriber, told Marijuana.com. “There’s lots of security around and not too much coming and going. Best kind of neighbors to have.”
Purchased from the city of Eastlake in March 2017, Buckeye Relief is Ohio’s first Level 1 facility, which means it is licensed to grow up to 25,000 square feet, or about 2,323 square meters, of cannabis plants. Buckeye broke ground on Dec. 1, 2017, and planted its first seeds on July 31, 2018.
The site had served as a senior center for several years after the Cold War waned, but mostly sat empty over the years, and therefore exempt from property tax that the town could have collected for many years.
The nearly 7-square-mile, or 18-square-kilometer, working-class city along the rocky shores of Lake Erie in northeast Ohio, Eastlake is home to about 18,000 people.
“Buckeye Relief is bringing much-needed economic stimulus into the community. Between the money for the sale of the land, yearly tax revenue and licensing fees, we’re happy to have the business,” said Eastlake Mayor Dennis Morley, a year into his second term.
Since an income tax levy failed in November 2014, Eastlake laid off many employees, reduced spending and combined or disbanded several departments. Morley himself had to lay off most of his staff.
“Companies like Buckeye Relief are helping turn the city’s finances around and will bring jobs into town,” Morley told Marijuana.com.
Police Chief Larry Reik is also pleased with what Buckeye Relief means for Eastlake, where marijuana possession has been treated like a minor traffic violation for the past several years.
“People’s opinions around marijuana have become much more nuanced. From the town meetings we held, it was clear the community supported the grow facility as well as medical marijuana,” Reik said.
Several Eastlake residents who spoke with Marijuana.com near the local high school, about a half-mile from the grow facility, shared the police chief’s positive sentiments, except for one less-than-enthusiastic mother of a 16-year-old boy.
Asking to remain anonymous, the woman said, “I’m not against it … but I am happy it’s a grow site and not a dispensary.”
Buckeye Relief CEO and co-founder Andy Rayburn and director of communications Leslie Brandon took Marijuana.com on a tour of the 60,000 square foot, or 5,574 square meter, grow facility, which features a product testing lab, cloning room, extraction area, concrete-and-steel-reinforced vault, and cultivation rooms where 10,000 plants divided into two rounds appear to be very healthy.
“It’s exciting to be up and running with an amazing team and the moral support of Eastlake residents who have been so welcoming,” said Rayburn, a businessman from a nearby town.
The facility has put a horticultural and medical team in place, along with a medical advisory board that includes three doctors, two registered nurses and the former chairman and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic.
“There are a variety of different health systems in place to support research on the benefits of CBD,” said Rayburn.
Buckeye Relief does not have an extraction and processing license yet but expects to be awarded one soon from Ohio’s Department of Commerce, which will release up to 40 provisional licenses by the end of 2018.
Buckeye currently has 18 employees, but plans to increase its staff size by the end of 2018. Harvest season will be a big hiring time, said Rayburn, who wants to bring on a minimum of 30 to 40 employees. To that end, they are holding a job fair at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post in late September.
“We want to hire as many veterans as possible,” said Rayburn, who added that the entire site was built by union labor.
Reik is still pleasantly amazed at Buckeye’s presence in Eastlake.
“If you’d have told me 25 years ago that there would be a marijuana grow site in our town, I would never have believed it,” Eastlake’s police chief said, “but here we are and it’s top notch.”
UPDATED Sept. 24, 2018: This article was corrected to add the word “into,” which was missing in the first paragraph. Also, the sixth paragraph was revised to include the metric measurement of Eastlake’s area.