IL: Marijuana Center 'Minimally Occupied'

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Ron Strider

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A medical marijuana cultivation center that started two years ago in Oglesby is still apparently growing plants, but its facility is said to be "minimally occupied."

In early 2015, Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries announced it would build its facility that summer west of Interstate 39. The center would initially hire 10 to 30 people, but at full capacity, it was expected to employ 100, the company said.

The facility at 104 E. Fourth St. is now surrounded by a high fence, with a guard shack at its entrance. A sign indicates there is 24-hour video surveillance. Another one says no one younger than 21 is allowed in. These measures are an apparent response to regulations requiring such buildings be secure, given marijuana is being grown.

On a recent weekday, no cars were in the parking lot when a reporter visited. Green Thumb Industries has not returned repeated calls about the facility.

The company has another center in Rock Island, as well as operations in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Nevada, according to its website.

In the spring, Green Thumb asked the La Salle County Assessor's Office to reduce its assessment by $1 million, saying its property was "minimally occupied," said Randy Savage, of the assessor's office.

"They contended there were sales of other commercial and industrial properties generally sold for significantly less than what we had on this property," Savage said. "The Board of Review declined to make any change."

Green Thumb has the right to appeal the board's decision to the state, but the assessor's office, to its knowledge, said the company has not done so yet. Its tax bill this year was nearly $90,000.

In 2014, the state Department of Public Health opened a process to designate a cultivation center for each of Illinois' 21 state police districts. The state received 160 applications. Each company had to pay a $25,000 fee to apply. Each winning firm paid a $200,000 license fee and must pay $100,000 annually to renew.

In the 22 months since the program started, the centers statewide have recorded nearly $100 million in medical marijuana sales.

In an email, John Campbell, director of the medical marijuana program, said Green Thumb has complied with its license requirements in Oglesby. He said the company is growing plants in the facility, but wouldn't say how many. Every center must grow plants to keep its license.

Overall, the state is satisfied with license holders' adherence to the law, Campbell said. It conducts weekly inspections at facilities to ensure compliance, he said.

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