Marijuana grow operation breaks ground in Benton Harbor

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - The medical marijuana industry is taking root in Benton Harbor.

On Friday, officials broke ground on a $5.5 million cannabis growing facility.

Some 11 years ago, the site was abandoned by an old-school aluminum smelting company that went bankrupt and left contamination behind for the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up.

Six months from now, it will house a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly medical marijuana grow operation.

“I guess it is a little ironic, because we are kind of an environmental forward-thinking company, with our LED lights and our solar panels. We’re going to have minimal water usage; we’re going to be reclaiming water off of our air conditioners,” said Bill Stohler with NOBO Michigan.

It was a project that almost didn’t happen.

On Friday, City Commissioner Ron Singleton recalled the vote that opened Benton Harbor’s doors to medical marijuana in the first place.

The commission was deadlocked 4-4 when Singleton broke the tie.

“I'm a retired police chief and deacon at church, and I got questioned, ‘How could you support that? How could you support that, being a retired police chief and a deacon of the church?’ But I see beyond that. I saw the medical purposes of it and also the economic side. I'm just glad it happened,” Singleton said.

NOBO Michigan, LLC, has permission to grow up to 3,000 medical marijuana plants, and it plans to hire 65 workers to start.

“With the adult use, we could have access to larger numbers, and there's really no limit on how big this site could be developed to. It’s an 11-acre site. This is just less than an acre of the property,” Stohler said.

Mayor Marcus Muhammad sees the situation as a business renaissance in the city.

“This is that green blade of grass that's growing out of the concrete to show that, although it may look dead, there's life sprouting up in the city of Benton Harbor," he said.

NOBO stands for North Boulder County, because some of the company principals run marijuana businesses in Colorado and in Oregon.