Medical marijuana farm heads to St. Clair County Board

News-DemocratJuly 14, 2014 

A proposal for a medical marijuana farm in rural Marissa is set to go before the St. Clair County Board after members of the county's Zoning Board gave the project their blessing Monday.

The seven members of the St. Clair County Zoning Board unanimously recommended the County Board approve a special use permit allowing a medical cannabis cultivation center to be built on 14-plus acres along Illinois 13. Should the County Board approve the center, then state officials must also give their OK before construction may begin.

The locked and enclosed facility called "Nature's Care" would sell marijuana to dispensaries as part of a new pilot program. Gov. Pat Quinn approved the program last August when he signed a law allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to treat debilitating conditions such as HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, epilepsy and others.

A six-partner company hopes to grow up to 15 strains of cannabis and sell it dried or as cookies, hard candies and drinks. Norwin Heimos, owner of greenhouses in Millstadt and St. Louis, and Mara Meyers, of Glen Carbon, would operate the center.

The company intends to file an application with the state in August, and hopes to begin construction in January 2015 with sales beginning in July 2015. The $7 million center would employ about 30 people and include a 20,000-square-foot building connected to a 1-acre greenhouse.

A similar proposal in neighboring Washington County was rejected by members of the Washington County Board on July 8.

Neighbors of the proposed center in Washington County opposed the location of the farm, which was in a wooded, secluded area, according to Washington County Zoning Administrator Rick Greten.

"Nobody was opposed to marijuana used as medicine. It was all about the location in Washington County. Initially, Nature's Care thought it was an attribute but neighbors didn't want 20 acres lit up day and night with (armored) trucks driving in," Greten said.

Residents would like to have the center and its accompanying jobs, Greten said, just located within an industrial area more accessible to law enforcement officers.

Only one cultivation center will be permitted within each state police district. The local state police district includes St. Clair, Madison, Bond, Clinton and Monroe counties. The four-year program allows state officials to approve the creation of 22 marijuana growing centers and 60 dispensaries.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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