Cincinnati Financiers Back SW Ohio Medical Pot Operation

The managers of the unsuccessful 2015 marijuana legalization campaign have teamed up with the Community Improvement Corp. of Wilmington to build a facility that would employ as many as 220 people to grow and research marijuana for medical use.

The principals are Cincinnati financier Jimmy Gould and Columbus political strategist Ian James, along with Cincinnati developer Bill Brisben, a former ambassador to UNICEF during the George W. Bush administration. Gould said Wednesday that they intend to build on a 19.2-acre plot on Davids Drive near the Wilmington Air Park, should their company, CannAscend, receive a state license to grow under the state’s 2016 medical-marijuana law.

Gould and James ran the Issue 3 effort to legalize marijuana for all adults that was defeated by a ratio of 2-1. But after that election, state legislators who had been long reluctant to discuss even a medical avenue for marijuana use said they sensed a mandate for a licensing program. Gould joined the legislative task force that searched for a path to permit the sick to use marijuana for pain relief and control of other disorders such as multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

Ohio’s medical law, which went into effect in September, allows for 12 large facilities and 12 small ones around the state to be granted growing licenses. Other businesses would process and manufacture the marijuana into patches, oils, tinctures and other products for medical use.

Gould told The Enquirer Wednesday that when he, James and Brisben sought potential grow sites, Wilmington stood out for its resilience against economic hard times. The Clinton County seat has been reeling from the 2008 loss of the DHL facility and last month’s announced loss of 300 Amazon jobs.

“The people were overwhelmingly supportive,” Gould said. “We think that we are going into a place where the jobs are going to make a big difference.”

The Community Improvement Corp. of Wilmington is the area’s nonprofit economic driver and owns the property on which the grow site would be built. David Raizk, the corporation’s executive director, said Thursday, “We’re excited at the possibilities of these jobs. We had some recent disappointment here as you know with the Amazon deal (opening a hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport instead of Wilmington), so anything that can help us offset that, that’s our reason for being.”

Gould said he hopes his company could get a state license by summer, and have a crop ready to plant by March 2018. Employment would start at between 50 to 75 workers, but as the facility expanded, he said as many as 220 people would have jobs at the site.

Gould said he is not concerned about recent statements from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warning of a federal crackdown on marijuana. Gould has been a personal friend of President Trump since the early 1980s when Gould persuaded Trump to purchase the New Jersey Generals of the defunct United States Football League.

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