CO farmer seeks to convert former medium-security prison into marijuana grow-house
The Denver Post reports that a man in northeastern Colorado wants to convert a former medium-security prison into a marijuana grow-house.
“I was walking through the empty [prison] one day by myself and I thought, ‘This place would be perfect to grow marijuana,’” Nicholas Erker told the Post. “There’s plenty of water, lots of electricity, it’s built of precast, 8-inch concrete walls, ceilings and floors, it’s in an industrial park away from the population and it’s surrounded by 25- to 30-foot exterior fences with razor wire on top — and there’s also an interior fence. You’re not going to get more secure than this.”
The facility is located in Brush, Colorado, and shut its doors in 2010, leaving 85 residents unemployed. “When you lose 85 jobs in any community, it hurts,” Erker said. “In a town the size of Brush, it really hurts.”
He took his belief that opening the grow-house and dispensary in could revitalize the town economically to Mayor Dan Scalise.
“We sat down with the mayor and his team and told them that we think we can create 31 jobs with an estimated payroll of $1 million with sales tax revenues that increase their current sales tax collections by 30 percent,” Erker said. “Their current sales tax is $1 million, and we’re estimating that we could generate around $300,000 in sales tax for the city of Brush through excise, sales and retail taxes.”
The only problem with Erker’s plan is that the city currently has a moratorium on all marijuana businesses. Either the city council needs to lift the moratorium or put it to a city-wide vote. Brush City Administrator Monty Torres said that he would open the floor to residents to comment publicly today, and “that will be the first time there will be community input — outside of the council members who have had their own discussions with citizens. But the council decided they’d like to hear from the community before they decide on lifting the moratorium or not.”
If the council decides to lift the moratorium — or if voters choose to rescind it in November — the city would have a perfect partner in Erker, who is currently the vice president of the Erker Grain Company, whose “background is in agricultural processing and food sales.” As Erker noted, “we’re in a similar industry, currently. We know what it means to have food-safety measures in place. We want to carry that same mindset and philosophy into this industry and use it to set an example for what every other facility in the state could thrive to be.”
He told the Post that the art of cultivating different strains of marijuana is one his company has already mastered with a similarly finicky plant — the sunflower. “In the sunflower business, we’re constantly looking for better genetics, looking for seeds that are more characteristic of our customers’ liking,” he said.
“This year we have 150 varieties of sunflowers growing in different test plots in Colorado, Nebraska and Texas. Through those test plots we’re also testing for yields with farmers — we want to make sure they have a good opportunity, too. We think we’ll be able to carry that same skill into the marijuana production, cultivation and sale.”
[Image via Flickr user Spot Us, Creative Commons licensed]