BY MATT TROUTMAN [email protected] Mar 9, 2017
KINGSLEY — Laughter echoed across a Kingsley village meeting when Gay Travis said she never had anything to do with marijuana.
But Travis, a 71-year-old resident and retired first-grade teacher, told village downtown development authority members on Wednesday she supported a proposed $20 million medical marijuana growing facility in her community.
She spoke softly, but firmly, about how Kingsley needed jobs after Pugsley Correctional Facility’s recent closure. The project could also raise tax dollars for its schools, she said.
“I’ve always been about making Kingsley stronger and I see this as a way to do that,” she said.
Travis’ positive comments weren’t just echoed by most other speakers at the meeting. DDA members closed it with a 5-0 symbolic vote of support for the project proposed by TheraCann International, a cannabis service company.
“(It) couldn’t have gone better,” said TheraCann USA President Richard Goodman, who attended the meeting.
The proposal sprouted about six months ago, and TheraCann representatives have quietly made their case to village representatives and at public meetings.
DDA member Marc McKellar told the packed room inside the village’s library the vote focused on the project’s economic benefits. He said the volunteer board spent hundreds of hours researching the company and the proposal.
He outlined a fact sheet that will be sent to Kingsley’s council and planning commission, which have the final say in whether the project can go forward.
“The point was to gather information that we could determine were facts, through due diligence and a mutual agreement between TheraCann and our board on what the understanding was going forward,” McKellar said.
TheraCann representatives hope to build a 100,000-square-foot medical marijuana growing facility in the Kingsley Industrial Park near M-113 and U.S. 131. They plan to initially hire about 100 workers, including 20 medical marijuana licensees who will grow the drug under new provisions in state law.
McKellar said company representatives, who planned to break ground within 90 days of approval, weren’t seeking tax breaks or incentives. Information distributed at the meeting stated the facility would generate about $527,000 in taxes for the area.
Audience members expressed support for the project, though some had specific questions about its impact on local infrastructure and the quality of marijuana that will be grown for patients.
Goodman said the company bears responsibility for infrastructure impacts and would grow plants under the highest specifications. He said it had a proven track record in Canada.
Some speakers acknowledged the facility’s product carried social questions, but others praised its potential benefits. Travis recounted how medical marijuana helped control a friend’s child’s seizures.
She said marijuana is no different than the plants in her garden or the willow bark that creates aspirin.
“It’s all in how you govern its growth and its use. And I guess we have to depend on our community, our leaders to be good strong leaders and make sure that we get protections that we need so we have this opportunity,” she said to applause.
The vote sets the stage for TheraCann representatives, if they choose, to present the project to village council members and planning commissioners.