NEWAYGO — After months of negotiations with city officials — and a contentious City Council vote in July — a medical marijuana startup plans to open a large-scale growing operation at an industrial park in Newaygo next year.
Wring Biopharma LLC is seeking a Class C growers license from the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) once applications are accepted starting Dec. 15 under the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act.
The license would allow the company to grow up to 1,500 plants, and Wring Biopharma also plans to process medical marijuana for extracted products on-site under a separate license.
James Barr, managing partner at Wring Biopharma, told MiBiz in late September that the company is finalizing a purchase agreement for 8.3 acres at the city’s industrial park for $125,000.
Wring Biopharma eventually plans to build 35,000 square feet of greenhouse space, which could come in multiple phases. A separate structure would house a vault and curing rooms and would be able to accept deliveries for secure transporters of the product. The company hopes to be fully permitted by the state in March or April next year. When construction is complete, Barr expects a $3 million to $3.5 million investment into the property.
“These are steel-frame, permanent greenhouse structures, not your typical hoop-houses,” Barr said.
The state’s 2016 law provides a regulatory framework for the growing, processing, testing, transporting and selling of medical marijuana, although state officials are currently promulgating rules for the program. Local units of government are allowed to ban these facilities, or opt in to the law and develop their own rules around which types and how many can operate.
According to Newaygo City Council meeting minutes from July 24, a motion to draft an ordinance regulating Wring’s facility failed 4-3 on the first vote. But after hearing public comment supporting the plan, the Council reconsidered and passed it 4-3 at the same meeting after Councilman Mike Hikade changed his vote.
The proposal apparently was met with concern over the image of having marijuana-related businesses in the city, although that was countered with arguments about the project’s economic development potential.
“This has the potential to bring a couple hundred jobs to the community,” Barr said, adding that the education process for local officials began in March.
Barr, originally from East Lansing, also serves as president of Strata Business Services LLC, a “specialized small business solutions company” that focuses on investments in the medical marijuana sector in Michigan and other states. He has spent time consulting and launching businesses in Colorado and Illinois, as well as lobbying on medical marijuana in Lansing.
“I’ve worked in some regulated systems outside of Michigan,” he said. “We were looking for communities that would be supportive of this project. Some of the smaller townships and cities that are out in front of this are really attracting some of the most qualified groups that are well-capitalized and ready to acquire their facilities.”