Last week’s announcement that medical cannabis company Grow West had purchased 11 acres at the Riverside Industrial Park on Kelly Road is another boost for Allegany County’s economic future.

The medical marijuana grower occupies property where the former Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. once employed more than 1,000 area residents. Kelly closed its doors in 1987, idling nearly 5 percent of Cumberland’s workforce.

Grow West opened in March 2018 with 18 employees. That number has grown recently to nearly 90. The company also operates a medical cannabis dispensary on West Industrial Boulevard.

The medical marijuana business has remained open during the COVID-19 epidemic, deemed essential by the state of Maryland.

“We feel very honored to be able to operate during this time,” Grow West CEO William Valois told our reporter Greg Larry late last month. “Because this is medicine and it’s helping people, just like CVS or any other pharmacy, during this time people want to make sure they have the right tools to help them through it.”

The $383,584 sale to Grow West subsidiary Manticorp LLC includes several structures plus an open tract of land.

Allegany County Board of Commissioners President Jake Shade said, “it’s an industry that we want and we’re happy to have here and they’re paying taxes and employing people. It’s good for the county.”

Valois said the added space will allow the firm to expand its cultivation capacity. Plans include the construction of five greenhouses adjacent to the county’s recycling center on a vacant 5-acre tract of land.

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia. 

The industry has generated more than $580 million between 2017 and September 2019 in Maryland, according to a report issued earlier this year by Beacon Economics, a California consulting firm, for the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association.

The report said more than 4,000 jobs were created and $21.7 million in tax revenue was added to state coffers during the two-year period.

The most common use for medical marijuana in the United States is for pain control, according to Harvard Medical School. It also is said to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis and help lessen tremors in Parkinson’s disease patients.

“This medicine has changed lives and we hear it every day,” Susan Valois, Grow West president, said. “We feel very fortunate and we will remain committed to keep our grow facility and dispensary up and running to provide safe, reliable service and products.”

Regardless of one’s take on medical marijuana — which is treated as a controlled substance and remains illegal under federal law — the addition of more jobs and expanding the county’s tax base is a bit of good news in this volatile economy.   

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