Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – A medical marijuana manufacturing facility whose products will include edibles and concentrates is being proposed by a McKinleyville-based construction company and faces a zoning hurdle related to its proximity to the county’s main airport.
A special permit application from the HMCP limited liability corporation, which is owned by the McKinleyville-based Hooven & Company, was submitted on Feb. 26 – the day the county’s commercial medical marijuana ordinance went into effect.
The new facility would occupy 800 square feet of the company’s 3,000-square-foot building at 3445 Central Ave., between Johnson and Norton roads and about 1,500 feet north of the Airport Road intersection.
The application proposes the manufacture of “medical marijuana and medical marijuana-infused product,” including marijuana concentrate.
Dave Hooven, the company’s vice president in charge of operations, said the project originated with a real estate agent’s inquiry about renting space for medical marijuana manufacturing. A consultant was hired but the leasing deal fell through.
“With the times changing as they are, I thought maybe this could be something we could pursue ourselves,” Hooven said.
The county’s recently-implemented commercial medical marijuana ordinance allows multiple categories of production, including manufacturing. Hooven said that specific plans for the facility are being developed by a consultant.
According to the project’s operations manual, the facility may produce water-based marijuana concentrate but the use of solvents – including butane, propane, CO2, ethanol, isopropanol acetone and/or heptane – is also considered.
A memo to Senior Planner Trevor Estlow from Bob Bronkall, deputy director of the county’s Land Use Division, states that “the quantity of the solvents to be stored onsite or used onsite is not known” and adds, “It is not known what the risk of explosion is.”
But Hooven said current use of his company’s property includes storage of diesel fuel and the manufacturing facility isn’t a significant change.
“We certainly want to do this the right way,” he continued. “We want to make sure, through using consultants and professionals, that we put together the best and safest operating conditions.”
The manual states that if the flammable solvents are used, a professional specialist will determine a maximum amount that can safely be stored, determine what type of electrical equipment can be used and whether gas monitoring and fire suppression systems should be installed.
Exhaust systems and installation of a “closed loop extraction system” capable of recovering solvents will also be considered and all solvents used for extraction will be “food-grade or at least 99 percent pure,” according to the manual.
The facility will not be open to the public, will typically operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will manufacture products “to be sold to state-licensed facilities on a wholesale basis.”
Products will be lab-tested for pesticides, mold and “other undesirable qualities prior to release for sale to wholesalers and retailers.”
The project’s siting within the area of the county’s Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan presents a land use issue. Bronkall’s memo describes the proposed manufacturing facility as being incompatible with the plan.
The project area is currently zoned as Industrial Commercial, which allows office and business uses of a moderate scale. A zoning change will be necessary to accommodate manufacturing.
Estlow said that the project’s location within the airport area will also require approval of a variance from the Board of Supervisors acting as the county’s Airport Land Use Commission.
Asked if the proposal is something he would have envisioned his family being involved in prior to recent legal developments, Hooven said, “No – I honestly never would have thought that.”
But the state now views medical marijuana as a commercial and agricultural commodity and marijuana is expected to be generally legalized in the November election.
“It seems kind of odd to be in this spot, but it looks like it’s coming and it’s going to happen and I think you can’t ignore that fact,” said Hooven. “The timber industry is in decline and the county needs new economic opportunities – I think it’s important for local businesses to be involved in this type of operation.”