Jan 302015

By Linda Kor

The recent purchase of a large facility and acreage in Holbrook for the purpose of cultivating marijuana holds the potential for more jobs for area residents.

The building, located off of Hermosa Drive east of Interstate 40, was built in 2006 to house a partition plant, but was only open for a few years before it shut down due to the economic downturn. Since that time the building had remained vacant with a large “for sale” sign posted on the exterior of the building, waiting for a company that would appreciate Holbrook’s reasonable property values and easy access to both the interstate and an airport.

The company that purchased the property, Swell Farmacy, operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Youngstown, and intends to use the building as a cultivation and testing site for medical marijuana for that dispensary. The facility is undergoing construction improvements and upgrades to accommodate the rigorous standards for security set by the state.

The first phase of development involves the remodeling of a portion of the interior and the outdoor greenhouses. Anthony Thomas, the facility manager, stated that he hopes to employ a majority of his personnel from the area, but hiring will not take place for another eight months. Once operations begin he will require approximately 10 full-time workers and up to 50 part-timers to assist with harvesting throughout each month. He also stated that individuals with a felony criminal record will not be considered, and applicants must have a professional appearance to be considered for employment. He also cautions area residents about visiting the site due to the restrictions set forth by the state and noted that any available jobs will be posted in The Tribune-News when the time comes.

With a 100,000-sq. ft. building, 5,000 sq. ft. of office space and 64 acres of land, if completely developed the facility has the potential to be one of the largest grow facilities in the state.

According to Juli Boles, medical marijuana product manager for the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), marijuana cultivation sites are highly regulated and those attempting to visit a cultivation site will not be allowed on the property.

“We have very strict rules regarding cultivation sites. Access is only allowed for dispensary agents; no public or medical marijuana patients are allowed in the facility,” she explained. “There are also a lot of security measures that are required to be in place such as cameras, monitoring and alarm systems.”

According to Boles, there is no limit to how much marijuana can be grown for a dispensary and the marijuana not used by the dispensary may be sold to other dispensaries within the state.

The news of the purchase was welcomed by city officials.

“I think if it means jobs for Holbrook, then it’s great,” stated Assistant City Manager Randy Sullivan.

As a private enterprise in an existing facility, there was no need to go before the city council or the planning and zoning commission for approval of the project, with the exception of the addition of six large greenhouses the company intends to place on the land surrounding the warehouse.

Thomas plans to not only cultivate the marijuana for medical use, but to also offer education classes to inform individuals suffering chronic illness and their caregivers regarding the use of marijuana to improve their health.