One will operate inside the city, the other, just outside city limits
By Clay Coleman
VANDALIA—Last Thursday, The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services issued licenses for medical marijuana cultivation facilities throughout the state, including two companies in Vandalia: 1913 Holdings LLC, and Standard Wellness LLC, based out of Ohio.
An overwhelming majority of Missouri voters, last year, passed Amendment 2, allowing for the cultivation, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana in the state. (Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.) This proposal is estimated to generate annual taxes and fees of $18 million for state operating costs and veterans programs, and $6 million for local governments, according to the Missouri secretary of state website. Annual state operating costs are estimated at $7 million.
“The state released criteria that if you look at low income, high unemployment areas, you get more points on your application,” said Vandalia City Administrator Darren Berry when discussing the DHSS selection process for company applications. “That’s when medical marijuana companies started contacting me.”
But Berry had other concerns, as well.
“I was looking at it as an economic benefit to the community, but I wanted to know both sides of the issue. Being a Southern Baptist, I was initially concerned about medical marijuana taking root in the community, so I was determined to hide nothing from the public.” He added, “I went to three churches here in town and talked with pastors and parishioners about the subject.”
Berry noted that Vandalia, “Mayor Kuda and the City Council had some initial concerns as well, but overwhelmingly supported the decision allowing this to take root in Vandalia.”
When asked about public opinion, he added, “We invited the public to voice their concerns to the City Council, and though we had a few dissenters, the majority of the feedback I’m getting from our residents has been positive.”
Now that Missouri has approved the location of 60 different medical marijuana cultivation sites, what exactly is coming to Vandalia?
“Two different companies contacted me not long after Missouri passed the amendment,” Berry told me during our sit-down. “1913 Holdings wanted an existing building here in town for cultivation, and Standard Wellness was looking to purchase 20 acres immediately outside the city limits.”
Under Missouri law, each indoor cultivating site is limited to 30,000-square-feet of flowering plant canopy space, which equates to more than 2,000 marijuana plants.
“The 1913 Holdings site used to be the old CSI plant on Lincoln Street,” Berry said. “That site will be for cultivating only. On the other hand, Standard Wellness purchased land off of Highway V, and is looking to expand from cultivating to adding a processing plant in the future.”
Standard Wellness has applied with the state for a processing license, which is up for approval in January. Processed items will include THC infused concentrates like co2 and distillate vape pens, syringes, and edibles.
Talking about the benefits of medical marijuana coming to Vandalia, Berry said he is optimistic.
“Both companies have talked with me about how important it is to be a part of the community,” he said. “Standard Wellness is talking about 50 jobs at some point, while 1913 told me anywhere from 25 to 50 jobs, with plans on expanding that number in the future.” He added that, “Some of the technical jobs may come from outside of the area, but the hands-on jobs, hopefully, will come from Vandalia and the surrounding communities. They both have talked to me about setting up job fairs the closer they get to breaking ground and setting up operations.”
Jobs are one thing, but Berry said the city of Vandalia would benefit in other ways, as well.
“Both facilities will utilize city water and sewer, and 1913’s site off of Lincoln, will also use city power,” Berry said. “The city currently uses something like 4 megawatts of power. Standard Wellness plans on using 4.6 megawatts alone,” he added. “The city may not be able to meet their needs on such short notice, but we are looking into that.”
When asked about co-existing with the people of Vandalia, Berry said he was excited about the relationship.
“Both companies are big supporters of different organizations within the communities they’re located in,” he said. “Standard Wellness wanted to know what organizations in town they can help. I talked with them about Van-Far, the Chamber, library, YMCA, and Lincoln School,” he added. “The dollar amounts they were talking about made me weak in the knees. It was unreal.”
In a town of similar size with Vandalia, Mayor Steven Fought of Gibsonburg, Ohio, had nothing but praise for Standard Wellness.
“They have a cultivation site, as well as a processing facility and dispensary located here,” Fought said during a phone interview. “We couldn’t have been any luckier with them coming to our city.” Ohio passed medical marijuana legislation in 2016. The first legal sales took place in January 2019.
“We have deeply rooted core values here in Gibsonburg,” Fought added. “At first, some were concerned about them coming here, but that changed relatively quickly. They not only have been significant financial sponsors within our community, but they helped spur other businesses coming here, as well.”
Not everyone is pleased about medical marijuana setting up shop in Vandalia. Residents have raised concerns about the crime rate going up, or the pungent smell coming from the plants.
Director of External Relations at Standard Wellness, Brandon Lynaugh, addressed those concerns by email.
“Standard Wellness submitted a comprehensive security plan as part of our application with the state of Missouri,” he wrote. “The facility will be access-controlled, and video monitored 24 hours a day.”
Regarding the smell from the cultivation facility, Lynaugh added, “The cultivation facility will utilize a sophisticated air purification system to mitigate odor both inside and out.”
Lynaugh said he is excited about his company coming to Vandalia, and more importantly, about the impact their product will have on Missourians.
“The people of Missouri join the residents of 32 other states in having access to medical marijuana with a physician’s recommendation. Medical marijuana has shown great promise in the treatment of dozens of conditions, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer and chronic pain.”
Lynaugh concluded, “Standard Wellness Missouri is excited to receive a cultivation license from the State of Missouri, and we’re eager to get started and look forward to being an active member in the Vandalia community.”