Discussion on medical marijuana cultivation continues

Dawn Rye | Writer

Running a medical cannabis operation is not for everyone, but it can be profitable and benefit patients with neurological and mental health conditions when done correctly. 

For those who want a grower’s license for medical marijuana, the process of applying for a grower’s license begins with understanding whether or not the state someone resides in even permits commercial cultivation.

Great Plains Agricultural Group member Doug Almond said after the previous meeting he spoke with a few commissioners over the phone regarding last-minute adopting ordinances. 

He explained that he understands the board was hesitant to move forward when allowing cultivation in the county. In November of 2020, Almond noted that when Amendment A and IM26 passed, he received phone calls regarding people interested in starting a cultivation facility. He refused to help them due to the state still trying to put together their regulations. Almond has been in the marijuana cultivation industry since the mid-90s and owns a marijuana farm in California. He did not expect South Dakota to pass Amendment A and IM26. He believes the county should gather more background information on the infrastructure and what it takes for a cultivation site vs. a dispensary. 

Commissioners Lyle Van Hove asked if the state got all their rules and regulations in place for cultivation? 

Almond relied on the state having rules in place for cultivation facilities. Even though he lives in Turner County, the original guy he would do business with would be in Lincoln or Minnehaha County. Several things have changed since that discussion, and instead of a full partner, Almond and his brother would fund the cultivation facility. 

He believes most of the marijuana industry will not come to South Dakota until IM26 goes through legislation. 

Almond said that when Governor Kristi Noem suggested pulling medical marijuana and recreational in, he felt that was a wrong move on her part. He explained that the best regulations are set with medical marijuana coming first. 

Commissioner Jared Hybertson questions if Almond could make a go on the cultivation side of the medicinal side?  

Almond stated yes because his focus is always quality over quantity and the operating procedures show that. 

Chairman Mick Miller noted that the county is not allowing cultivation. 

Commissioner Tony Ciampa said Almond is looking for the county to change the ordinances, allowing cultivation and getting turned down after borrowing the funds. 

Almond stated he has a $7 – $11 million loan on the line that would provide him with land, property, infrastructure and pay executives and employees for 12 – 18 months. He would be looking at purchasing 25 acres and does not need that much for cultivation. However, he has experience in flower farms. On the property, there would be one resident for security and surveillance. 

Great Plains Agricultural Group member Jessica Hawke admitted she and Almond did attend the August meeting and were not looking at Turner County to place a cultivation facility until recently. 

Hybertson said if they find the right community to discuss property tax dollars, sale tax revenue, employment and win the residents over to allow a cultivation facility. 

Almond hopes within two-three years, he would have 20-30 employees at the facility in a small community. When recreational marijuana comes through, he would be able to double the size of the building to meet customers’ needs.

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