The Cottage Grove City Council has given the green light to a medical marijuana growth facility in a city business park.
The council's unanimous approval Wednesday night grants a conditional use permit and a contract for private development between LeafLine Labs LLC and Cottage Grove's economic development agency.
LeafLine would purchase a 24-acre property in the business park. It plans to build a plant to grow and process medical cannabis. Going before the Cottage Grove council was one of the last major steps in the application process for the new company, which hopes to be one of the state's two registered medical marijuana manufacturers.
Peter Bachman, president of LeafLine, said he was initially skeptical of the medical marijuana business, but after doing research, he changed his mind.
"What we're seeing when you look into this is you find that medical marijuana is less addictive than opioids," Bachman told the council. "It's safer and it's often very effective. This medicine can improve quality of life and even save lives. So that is why we're in this business. It's the right thing to do and it's the right thing to do right."
LeafLine is owned in part by some members of the Bachman family, which also owns the Twin Cities garden and floral chain that bears their name. Peter Bachman said LeafLine is a separate entity.
The company would initially build a 50,750 square foot facility, which would eventually be expanded to more than 108,000 square feet according to city documents.
Bachman said the facility would employ around 35 to start and within three years provide 150 jobs.
The Cottage Grove site would not dispense cannabis to patients. The new medical cannabis law allows each registered manufacturer to operate up to four distribution facilities.
Few people at the public hearing Wednesday night had critical things to say about LeafLine's plan. Deb Nelson lives about a mile from the proposed site. Nelson told the council during a public hearing that she was concerned about the security of the plant, the smell and the residue and waste from the facility. Company and city officials responded that the plant is designed to ensure smell would not be an issue. And they said the state would be enforcing standards for safe waste disposal.
Cottage Grove Police Chief Craig Woolery was pleased with what he's seen of the company's security plans.
"[Peter] Bachman talked about security requirements, external, internal surveillance. All state-of-the-art. All current standards," Woolery said. "They talked about alarm systems, and also talked about transportation, how the product moved. With employees, card access, credentialing, backgrounds, fingerprints. I wish we had that standard for a lot of businesses."
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