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The “times are a changing” and perhaps cotton will no longer be king in Kings County.

Hanford is weighing a proposal by an Oakland company to use a 1 million square-foot vacant Pirelli Tire (Armstrong) plant building to cultivate medical marijuana indoors. The building, in Hanford’s Industrial Park, has been largely empty since 2001.

According to a Sept. 12 letter from Keith Stephenson of Purple Heart Patient Care, the operation could employ as many as 1,115 workers getting at least $15 per hour. That would make it Kings County’s largest private employer.

Hanford City Council discussed the plan at a study session this week. They will weigh the potential economic upside with their comfort level over marijuana cultivation in the mostly conservative community.

Currently, the city does not allow marijuana to be grown within the city limits.

The facility would not sell to retail customers or accept walk-in customers.

Valley dispensaries are skeptical that Kings County will allow the new business.

“Going into Kings County with a marijuana business is definitely an ambitious, uphill battle,” said Tammy Muarry, who owns Canna Can Help Inc., just 10 miles east of Hanford. “Kings County is probably the last frontier for the cannabis industry.”

However, Stephenson wrote that the company was willing to offer a $25 per pound tax to the city of Hanford. By his calculation, it would provide up to $14 million a year in revenue to the city.

Stephenson has served patients from their Oakland facility since 2006. He currently has 26 employees. He is a retired United Airlines technician who underwent two hip replacements that led to his involvement with medical marijuana.

He says the facility could be in full operation in 2017 and shipping product out by the end of 2017.

“It’s been a long time since that parking lot has been full of cars,” said Kings EDC President John Lehn, referring to the former tire making operation.

Vice Mayor of Hanford, Francisco Ramirez, voiced initial support for the idea on his Facebook page.

“We have to discuss this further but ultimately, I think it will be beneficial for the citizens of this great community. There is very good restrictive law in place,” he wrote. “I truly believe if we study this business and it’s a quality qualified business it’s time to create good-quality jobs in our community. Over 1,100 $15 an hour jobs or more will be created in the process. Time to put our Citizens First.”

Ramirez said after the council meeting Tuesday that the city council told City Manager Darrel Pyle to continue discussions with the company.

Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes said he’s opposed to the idea. While the facility may not directly sell to the community, the drug may end up back in the city. He added he’s not in favor of any marijuana use.

“It’s a gateway drug that has lifelong consequences with brain development and function,” he said. “As far as the ordinance is concerned, any legal method to curtail use is necessary for public health.”

Meanwhile, Coalinga is working with another firm who is proposing a marijuana oil extracting operation in a vacant city jail building. And to the east, Tulare County supervisors put a halt to new medical marijuana facilities and stopped all expansion products.

Supervisors didn’t say much about their 22-month ban, but one supervisor spoke out against it. Phil Cox, who is leaving the board at the end of the year but hoping to gain a seat on Visalia’s City Council, said he voted no because he didn’t want to stop business growth.

He added that he’s also hearing more concerns over a ban on edibles, which he said have helped people sleep and children with disabilities.

“I am little more open. It’s pretty obvious that [Tulare County] is not open to this type of business right now,” he said. “I have heard of it helping people. I think a business in the middle of an expansion should be allowed to finish that expansion.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Hanford Medical Marijuana Facility Could Employ 1,115 Workers
Author: John Lindt
Contact: (559) 735-3200
Photo Credit: None Found
Website: Visalia Times-Delta