WHITE CREEK – Two Oregon cannabis growers have bought a White Creek building in preparation for growing recreational marijuana there.

To prepare their application for state permits, Tim Lorito and wife Yahina Vargas have gotten town and county IDA approvals and closed on the former Morcon Tissue plant, at 879 Route 22. Morcon Tissue moved to a nearby location in 2018.

Now they’re waiting – probably for a year – to get state approval.

“Everybody doesn’t really know yet what their odds are,” Lorito said. “That’s the risk you take as an entrepreneur. You have to get your building secured first or you don’t have any chance.”

The Long Island native picked the former Morcon site because the buildings seemed ideal for his purposes – which is to create an indoor, year-round growing facility at a cost of $3.2 million. At the former plant, he wouldn’t have to build from scratch, and the buildings are in an area that can be secured and isn’t in a residential neighborhood.

Then he contacted White Creek Supervisor James Griffith.

“The first step is to get a good municipality behind you,” he said. “Griffith – he was very pro-business and very open to bringing jobs to the area. We’ve gotten a warm welcome there.”

This month, the Warren Washington IDA voted to approve a sales tax exemption. The building is exempt from town Planning Board review.

“It’s already zoned as an industrial use. There is an exemption in the code,” Griffith said. “They’re not expanding the footprint of the building at all. Because they’re not changing the use, that exempts them.”

But Lorito is going to present the plans to the Planning Board anyway, as he did for the county IDA. The main points: no smell will leave the facility, and there will be security.

Griffith is already looking forward to the jobs.

“At the lowest amount, we’re talking 35 good paying jobs,” he said. “And we’re not losing, we’re adding jobs, because Morcon purchased the plant around the corner.”

Every year Washington County authorizes the state police to use helicopters to search for illegal marijuana growing outdoors in the rural county, and farmers describe at county supervisor meetings how they use herbicides to kill marijuana plants hidden at the edges of their fields. But it’s different now, Griffith said.

“The attitude is, the state legalized it,” he said. “We look at it as an expansion of agriculture. We hope it creates a symbiotic relationship with the CBD developers we have in our county.”

Lorito does not expect the state to issue permits for growing marijuana for at least another year, citing his experience as a grower in Oregon. For the last three years, the couple ran Flyin Dutch Boys, a recreational marijuana growing business in Scio, Oregon.

“We expected it. We knew that was coming,” he said of the lead time. “It’s an extreme learning curve (for New York state). They’re putting together a whole regulatory thing together. Delivery, retail, you’re talking about a mass undertaking.”

So his business model assumed there would be a long wait.

“This is completely normal,” he said, adding with a laugh, “It’s not normal for the entrepreneur’s instinct.”


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