Update: Cottage Grove OKs medical marijuana facility, Bemidji considering one

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With just about two weeks to go before the deadline to apply to be a medical marijuana producer, Minnesotans are getting their first look at where the marijuana growing facilities may go, who may be growing it, and even how.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the medical marijuana bill into law in May, which makes it legal for an estimated 5,000 Minnesotans with certain medical conditions to be eligible to purchase the drug from approved manufacturers in the state.

The state began accepting applications for those manufacturers – of which there will be two total – earlier this month.

Here's a look at two cities that could be home to marijuana manufacturing facilities, pending state selection and city approval.

Cottage Grove

LeafLine Labs LLC, a new company founded by members of the Bachman family, who own and run Twin Cities-based Bachman's Floral, Home and Garden, is seeking a license from the state Department of Health to grow and sell medical marijuana in Cottage Grove, the South Washington County Bulletin reports.

LeafLine Labs, which isn't affiliated with the floral business, hasn't been picked by the state to manufacturer marijuana, but the Cottage Grove City Council approved a conditional use permit Wednesday night to move its plan forward, according to KSTP.

The council reviewed a 75-page report about the project before approving the plan 4-0.

The Cottage Grove Economic Development Authority has already approved LeafLine's preliminary plan, the South Washington County Bulletin notes, which includes a roughly 50,000-square-foot facility at the Cottage Grove Business Park. Around it would be a wrought iron fence and security gate, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal says. Marijuana wouldn't be sold on-site.

“I see it as a plus for the city,” city administrator Ryan Schroeder told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He favors the proposal largely because it would bring about 150 jobs to the city.

During a public comment period, only one person seemed to object to the proposal, saying he didn't want Cottage Grove labeled as a "pot town," the Pioneer Press says.

LeafLine, which has partnered with Connecticut-based Teraplant LLC, a marijuana grower, plans to expand the proposed facility to about 200,000 square feet in the next three years, the South Washington County Bulletin says.

Bemidji

The co-chair of the Bemidji-area chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) hopes to put a medical marijuana growing facility in Bemidji, the Bemidji Pioneer reports.

Jake Chernugal presented his plan to build Headwaters Health Center Medical Cannabis Manufacturers (HHC) to the Bemidji City Council earlier this week. He told the city council he's raised the $20,000 needed for the application fee and plans to submit the application "in the first part of October," the newspaper reports.

HHC would use hydroponics to grow the plants, which uses water and mineral mixtures instead of just soil. Chernugal's plan says the marijuana would be grown and distilled at the Bemidji site and then distributed by local MedSave Family Pharmacy, which his father owns, the Bemidji Pioneer says.

The proposed HHC site goes against state law, however, which prohibits a marijuana manufacturing or distribution facility within 1,000 feet of a public or private school. Council member Nancy Erickson pointed out during Monday's meeting that a child care facility was next door to the proposed marijuana farm, the Bemidji Pioneer says.

“I just found that out today, as a matter of fact, about five minutes before I walked in here,” Chernugal said at the meeting. “That’s definitely something we’re going to address, and we’ll be looking for an alternative site.”

What's next

Those interested in submitting an application to be a state-certified medical cannabis manufacturer must issue a letter of intent by Sept. 19, with the deadline for manufacturer applications being Oct. 3, according to a timeline on the Minnesota Department of Health's (MDH) website.

The Department of Health is expected to name semi-finalists for the two marijuana manufacturing licenses at the end of October and then conduct site visits in early November, the Bemidji Pioneer says. By Nov. 1, the Commissioner of Health must say if the state will be able to register the manufacturers by the Dec. 1 deadline, MDH says. The commissioner may request a six-month extension if necessary.

If the manufacturers are registered by the December deadline, the companies must be able to supply medical marijuana for patients on the state registry by July 1. However they are also allowed one six-month extension if the company isn't able to meet the deadline.

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