Last week the Niagara Falls Reporter broke the news that all five Lewiston Council members said they would likely support a medical marijuana growing facility in the Town of Lewiston.
Lewiston Greenhouse LLC, owned in part by the owners of Modern Disposal, is expected to make application to the state of New York this spring to be granted the right to grow medical marijuana at their H2 gro facility, a 12 acre greenhouse owned by Modern Disposal on Pletcher Rd, which is presently used to grow tomatoes.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to pick five medical marijuana growers throughout New York.
As part of the application process, a company wishing to be considered as one of the five growers is expected to demonstrate support from the local community.
In Lewiston the issue has bi-partisan support.
Supervisor Dennis Brochey, the sole Democrat, is joined by Republicans Ron Winkley, Alphonso Bax, and William Conrad, along with Independence Party member Beth Ceretto in supporting the concept for as they have stated a variety of reasons.
Medical marijuana has been proven to aid suffering children and ailing adults. Uniquely Lewiston Greenhouse LLC has one outstanding edge over all other potential growers. It owns the New York State license for the world -famous Charlotte's Web strain of medical marijuana - which has been proven to aid children with epilepsy when all other drugs failed.
Lewiston Greenhouse partner Gary Smith, who is also vice president and COO of Modern Disposal Inc, one of the largest disposal companies in the USA, said his medical marijuana company is willing to enter into a host agreement with Lewiston to provide a mechanism of payment based on profitability.
In addition, Niagara County would reap a windfall since the county where the grower is domiciled will receive about 1.58 percent of gross sales, as the county's share of the state seven percent excise tax. This is likely to result in millions in new revenue for the county.
Considering that only five growers will be selected, counties across the state will be vying for this windfall.
Because growers will be engaged in the year round cultivation of medical marijuana as opposed to seasonal greenhouse growing of tomatoes and because of the extra security required by the state as part of its regulatory process, it is expected that the net employment gain from converting the H2 Gro greenhouse from tomatoes to medical marijuana will result in more than three dozen new jobs.
Consider that the Niagara County IDA offers decades of tax free incentives worth millions to get this kind of job creation. In this instance however the county will not be paying incentives but will be receiving incentives.
Ceretto, who is the town's newest council member and is married to State Assemblyman John Ceretto - who voted for the passage of the medical marijuana law last year, said she will take the lead in sponsoring a resolution endorsing Lewiston Greenhouse as a grower of medical marijuana in town.
Meantime across the state and in WNY, a number of communities are vying for the opportunity to host growers of medical marijuana. The competition is expected to be intense.
Other Municipalities Hopeful
Already several municipalities have been in contact with potential growers to lure them to operate in their towns.
According to sources, Lewiston Greenhouse has been approached to establish growing facilities in another municipality instead of Lewiston.
But there seems no need for the company to relocate and utilize a building in another municipality - even if it was offered for free - since Lewiston officials seem supportive of the medical marijuana initiative.
Lewiston Police Chief Chris Salada weighed in this week on the town's preparedness to safeguard growers of medical marijuana.
"If it becomes legalized, we will adapt and move forward, " Salada said. "Obviously it is going to be regulated closely and I want (our department) to be involved in (crafting security measures).
"If it were to come where Modern Disposal grows it, we would like to be part of the safety factors. Our force is capable and able to maintain safety for a facility like that.
"Remember, the town already has some very important places and structures that the police keep an eye on - the Power Authority, the international bridge and all our schools. If it become legal and if it does go to Modern we will do our best to make sure it is regulated and secured properly. I wouldn't oppose it."
Salada is not the only police chief who feels security can be handled.
In Niagara Falls, where some officials have privately told the Reporter that they would like to lure Lewiston Greenhouse or another company to grow medical marijuana in their city, Police Supt. Bryan DalPorto said that in the event his city hosts a grower of medical marijuana he would be "willing to work with any business" adding "It is no more a threat than a drug store which has pharmaceuticals. As long as there is security, we would be willing to work with them."
State Demands Security Measures
Local police would be guided by security measures imposed by the state as part of the medical marijuana law.
According to the new state medical marijuana law, a grower will have to have a security system to prevent and detect theft of marijuana which must include:
(1) a perimeter alarm;
(2) motion detectors;
(3) video cameras in all areas that contain marijuana and all points of entry and exit. (
4) twenty-four hour recordings from cameras, available for live viewing by the state.
(5) The alarm system must include: (A) A silent "duress alarm," generated by the entry of a code into an arming station to signal the alarm user is being forced to shut off the system; (B) A "panic alarm," manually activated, to signal a life threatening or emergency situation requiring law enforcement. (C) A silent "holdup alarm" generated by manual activation to signal a robbery in progress; (D) An automatic voice dialer, programmed to send a prerecorded message, when activated, over telephone, radio or other communication system, to law enforcement, public safety or emergency services agency requesting dispatch; (E) A failure notification system that provides audible or visual notification of any failure in the surveillance system within five minutes. (F) The ability to remain operational during a power outage which requires a back up generator and a back up to the back up generator.
**?The grower must also limit access to surveillance areas to persons essential to surveillance, law enforcement, and the Health Dept.
**?Growers must keep the outside perimeter illuminated so that video recordings are crystal clear.
** Inside, marijuana must be stored in a secure area and products must be in a safe or vault locked except for the actual time required to remove or replace medical marijuana products.
** Before medical marijuana can leave the growing facility to the dispensary the grower must, two days prior, complete a shipping manifest transmitted to the dispensing facility and the Health Dept.
** It must be transported in a locked, safe and secure storage compartment in a vehicle transporting the marijuana directly to the dispensary.
** The truck must have at least two employees - one to remain with the vehicle at all times.
Overall the regulations for medical marijuana are more stringent than for drug stores which contain large quantities of morphine based prescription pills which have large street values.
It is expected the state will begin accepting applications as soon as this spring and Lewiston Greenhouse LLC will be among the applicants.
Whether they win one of the five coveted spots is in large part up to the governor. There is anticipated to be as many as 100 companies competing for spots.
Lewiston Greenhouse LLC has the facility, the apparent support of the town council, is willing to make the investment in time and money to start up and a police force willing to aid in the security challenges.
It is hopeful.