New marijuana facility breaks ground at former Hudson Valley prison

The former prison, which was closed in 2011 when the state moved to a new facility, is now being transformed into a medical marijuana production and distribution center.

The mid-orange correctional facility is a new marijuana facility that has been breaking ground at the former Hudson Valley prison.

By 2023, what was formerly a medium-security prison in Warwick that held approximately 1,000 prisoners would be a fully operational cannabis growing facility.

New York authorized adult recreational marijuana use during this year’s legislative session, leading manufacturers to start planning cannabis growing and manufacturing facilities in the state. Cresco Labs proposed a cannabis growing facility in the Town of Wawarsing this month, offering 300 to 400 employment if construction begins in 2022.

Ben Kovler, CEO and founder of Green Thumb Industries, described the event as “kind of a full circle moment.” Given the country’s long history of marijuana prohibition, he said, “the entire idea of the cannabis industry built on top of doing what we’re doing for meaningful employment does not make a lot of sense.” “The fact that there are still individuals in prison throughout the country is a problem,” Kolver said, adding that Green Thumb wants to keep employing people who have been jailed as they have in the past.

The Warwick State Training School for Boys, established in the 1920s and sponsored by Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, was housed on the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility site before it became a jail.

Green Thumb has 16 production facilities and 64 retail locations throughout 14 states, producing consumer packaged goods and distributing branded cannabis products. According to Kovler, it is also one of the state’s ten recognized medicinal marijuana groups.

The firm has committed $150 million to refurbishing and remodeling the Orange County plant, which will result in the creation of at least 100 construction jobs and 100 permanent employment with benefits for people who work there after it is completed.  

“There is a lot of potential upwards, from paid positions with supervisors, operational responsibilities, and all the way up to general managers,” Kovler said of the upcoming opportunities. “Now is the moment for individuals who have a love for it and the abilities to study it, and we can provide them a long-term career.”

Green Thumb has been in talks with the Town of Warwick since 2020, but the marijuana business paid $3.3 million for the 40 acres of old prison grounds in May, after the Orange County Industrial Development Agency granted a 15-year tax exemption for Green Thumb. The $3.3 million purchase paid off the town’s outstanding obligation to the state for the cost of the jail site.

Local and state officials joined Green Thumb Industries Founder and CEO Ben Kovler for a groundbreaking ceremony this week.

Green Thumb Industries Founder and CEO Ben Kovler was joined by local and state authorities for a groundbreaking ceremony this week. (Photo courtesy of Everett Collie)

“They’ve been an incredible partner,” Kovler added. “They were trying to figure out what to do with this jail site… Learn how to manage employment and other responsibilities. They were drawn to the cannabis concept, and it was a good fit. They laid out the red carpet for us, and we’ll back it up with large investments and plenty of jobs.”

The firm will set aside 58,000 square feet of the 200,000 square foot facility for marijuana cultivation during the first of three stages, with the remainder being utilized for processing, offices, and storage. The initial phase of construction, according to Kovler, should be finished within a year. Planting will begin in mid-year 2022, with product ready by 2023; this implies Green Thumb’s goods will be available for purchase about the same time the state expects recreational dispensaries to open.  

“We don’t feel as wanted anywhere else as we do in Warwick,” Kovler added. “That’s why it’s such a significant victory – given the size of the [recreational marijuana] program in New York, the amount of money we’re going to invest, and our seven years of expertise, we can put our best foot forward and produce something unique here.”

PharmaCann, a medicinal marijuana grower in Hamptonburgh with ambitions to expand into recreational cannabis production, is another cannabis facility in Orange County.

Town of Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton said the town council is still discussing whether to allow on-site cannabis use at cafes and marijuana shops as marijuana production takes root in the area. Three local ordinances are now being considered. The first, which is likely to pass at Thursday’s meeting, makes it illegal to smoke on public land in any form. The second would prohibit smoking lounges from serving alcohol on-site, but would allow dispensaries in specific locations. The third municipal legislation would establish an overlay district to designate the commercial sections of town where dispensaries are permitted.

The public comment period for the last two is still open. Sweeton replied, “We’ll see how it goes.”

While the state has legalized adult-use marijuana, local governments have until December 31 to determine whether or not to allow dispensaries or smoking lounges in their communities.

The fiorello pharmaceuticals is a new marijuana facility that has broken ground at the former Hudson Valley prison.

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