By Tom Troy
A Cincinnati property developer would be the primary owner of a Toledo marijuana growing facility — and the employer of up to 300 people — if Ohio voters approve a proposed marijuana legalization amendment, the campaign said on Tuesday.
David Bastos, 36, a partner with Capital Investment Group Inc., is the lead investor in the firm that would operate an indoor “grow” facility at 6070 Hagman Rd. in North Toledo.
The 28.5-acre site, now a corn field near a privately owned landfill, would be one of 10 marijuana facilities licensed in the state under an amendment to the Ohio Constitution, if the question gets to the ballot and if voters approve the amendment in the Nov. 3 election.
The Toledo site, north of Alexis Road, is owned by James and Bettie Bournes of Temperance, with Mrs. Bournes listed as trustee with the Lucas County auditor.
All 10 locations, which would grow marijuana and sell it to manufacturers, medical dispensaries, and marijuana retailers, are identified by parcel number in the proposed amendment.
Mr. Bastos did not return a message left at his business Tuesday, but ResponsibleOhio provided a statement from him.
“I’m deeply troubled by the far-ranging consequences of our state’s failed marijuana prohibition,” Mr. Bastos said. “I grew up outside Washington, D.C., and saw firsthand the inequalities associated with marijuana enforcement in a very diverse city. Now I’ve moved my family to Ohio and built a business here, and I know that our state will benefit immensely from marijuana reform.”
He also said Ohio needs the jobs, and local governments need the tax revenue. “It’s a no-brainer, and I’m proud to be part of this effort,” he said.
Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, the group promoting the marijuana amendment, said his organization talked to potential investors in Toledo, among the “hundreds” that they spoke to over the last 16 months, but found no one locally able to take on the personal and business risks
“There is a chance you could go to federal prison. That is a deterrent,” Mr. James said. Marijuana possession and trafficking is illegal under federal law. However, in 2013 the Department of Justice issued a memo saying it would not prosecute cases in states with a regulated marijuana industry. Twenty-three states allow medical marijuana use, and four states and the District of Columbia also allow recreational marijuana use.
In addition, banks cannot hold money generated by pot producers or loan money for a marijuana operation, he said. In addition, investors cannot deduct from their taxes the businesses costs related to marijuana. Mr. James said employees would have all the usual benefits and payroll deductions, but the business will make those payments in cash, as done in other states with legalized marijuana.
Mr. Bastos’ firm and its affiliate entities own and manage more than 1,200 multifamily housing units and approximately 40,000 square feet of neighborhood shopping centers, according to its website. Mr. Bastos last week was appointed by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to the Cincinnati Arts Association.
ResponsibleOhio has said that each of the 10 investment groups will spend up to $30 million developing its site and will employ up to 300 people. Salaries are expected to average $25 per hour and be at what the group calls a “living wage,” and the employer will allow union representation if a majority of employees sign a card, Mr. James said.
Employees grow and tend the plants, harvest and package marijuana, and run the business and financial operations. Some job titles would be seed harvester, grower, trimmer, and concentrate processor.
Mr. James said job fairs and seminars would be organized to promote opportunities running retail businesses and testing and manufacturing facilities.
Mr. James said, “David Bastos has immense business and philanthropic experience. He will be a vital asset to our campaign, and I’m thankful to have his support.”
Jonathan Allison, a Columbus lawyer representing the Drug Free Action Alliance, questioned Mr. Bastos’ motivation.
“It’s no surprise that ResponsibleOhio would find a successful businessperson to run their Toledo cartel,” he said. “If he didn’t have a constitutionally guaranteed return on investment, would he care so much about this issue?”
Advocates for the amendment have said that the owners of the 10 growing operations would face normal business risks because they would have to compete with each other and could lose their license if the operations are not managed lawfully.
Mr. Allison said an opposition campaign is coming together, including “significant representation” from the business and law enforcement community, though he said they would not likely be able to compete with the $36 million projected to be spent by the ResponsibleOhio campaign.
In the last 10 years, CIG has focused on urban developments in the Cincinnati area, according to ResponsibleOhio. Mr. Bastos has supported Make-a-Wish Foundation of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, the Special Olympics of Ohio, the Cincinnati Museum of Art, and ProKids.
Mr. James said Mr. Bastos will come to Toledo to meet with government and community representatives. He has not ruled out taking on local investors.
“There may well be a local investor coming forward. That is something David is speaking to people about to see if there is an interest,” Mr. James said.
ResponsibleOhio of Columbus is trying to collect more than 305,000 signatures from registered voters needed to place its marijuana question on the ballot. The amendment would allow people 21 and older to possess and use marijuana for recreation. Anyone would be able to use medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor. People would be allowed to grow up to four plants.
Each of the 10 investor groups has committed $4 million to the campaign to pass the amendment. ResponsibleOhio has not identified the owners of all the sites.
VIA Toledo Blade