The Lakeland Planning & Zoning Board Tuesday approved Revolution Global’s plan to operate a medical marijuana production plant in a 109,000-square-foot warehouse on a 14.5-acre parcel in an industrial park near Carillion Lakes. It turns out city approval wasn’t really needed.

The city planning board had no choice but to endorse the proposal, said attorney Tim Campbell, representing property owner JPRI Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of The Ruthvens. “The state of Florida has actually preempted local governments from anything related to regulation of cultivation, processing or delivery of marijuana” beyond land-use, building standards and fire codes, he said.

The company did not need to undergo Tuesday’s public hearing to secure approval for its modified site plan because it has already has all the authorizations it needs through the state’s “painstakingly long, uniform, exhaustive” licensing and monitoring processes, Campbell said.

The board had tabled JPRI’s request to add marijuana production to allowed uses on the site at its Jan. 19 meeting after Carillion Lakes residents expressed concerns about odors emanating from the plant, fearing leakage similar to smells that they say come from a nearby Surterra marijuana operation outside city limits approved by Polk County.

Assistant City Attorney Jerrod Simpson said during the Jan. 19 meeting that the city’s biggest concern was how to deal with odor complaints. The best tact, he said, would be to handle it through the code enforcement and, perhaps, require such operations to include “an odor abatement plan.” 

But Simpson was uncertain what conditions the city could place on marijuana operations because “express provisions may be preempted” by the state.

“Technically and officially,” Campbell told the board Tuesday, all provisions outside three narrow categories are preempted by the state.

Nevertheless, he said, JPRI Holdings and its client — Chicago-based Global Revolution, which will operate the plant — want to be “good corporate citizens so we are here to address some of the issues that were raised” by Carillion Lakes residents at the behest of city planners.

John Faucher, Revolution Global vice president of operations, said the company was established in 2014 and operates in six states. Its warehouse in The Ruthvens’ I-4 industrial park at 3720 Gateland Drive is its first Florida operation.

Matt Welling, Revolution Global senior vice president of construction services, said the plant would be more than 1,000 feet from the nearest Carillion Lakes home, more than seven times than the 140 feet that separate the Surterra plant from nearby homes.

Welling said the plant will be a “building within a building” equipped with state-of-the-art ventilation, including “double-locked” activated carbon filtration systems in every room. The HVAC systems were developed for use in marijuana production in Colorado and California and are best practices touted by the National Cannabis Industry Association, he said.

Board member Jeri Thom asked if there were statistics verifying the effectiveness, or capture, of such odor-eating technologies.

Welling could not provide a definitive percentages but estimated the plant’s controls would have at least “90% function” in eliminating odors.

In addition to “engineering controls,” he said, Revolution Global also employs “operational controls” to ensure airtight production with industry best practices that include annual staff training, a 24-hour contract with a local HVAC business and appointment of “a community liaison in the event there are concerns with odor, but we don’t anticipate that to be a problem with the technology put in place.”

Appointing a liaison available to nearby homeowners associations, including Carillion Lakes, “is a very good point,” Campbell said. “These arrangements have worked elsewhere. If there’s an issue, let us know. We’ll check into it. They want to be responsive. They want to have a line of communication.”

Although the vote was unnecessary, the board approved JPRI’s proposal unanimously.

JPRI displayed “a good business practice to seek approval even though they don’t have to,” board member Joseph Lauk said.

Until Tuesday, the city had only approved one other grow operation and odor complaints were not raised, so the clarity on preemption could save Lakeland planners needless regulatory review because the area is likely to see more proposals similar to JPRI’s.

Lakeland’s growing footprint as a statewide logistics hub has it poised to benefit from dramatic growth in Florida’s medical marijuana industry. After three years of legal wrangling, the state is expected to issue up to 27 new marijuana treatment center licenses by July 1, 2023, more than doubling the number of marijuana operations in the state. 

According to the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, weekly Feb. 11 update, there are 405 dispensaries operating statewide and 678,389 residents qualified as patients by 2,800 physicians licensed to prescribe medical marijuana in the state.

Florida’s medical marijuana industry created nearly 15,000 jobs and generated nearly $1.23 billion in taxable sales in 2020, according to Arcview Market Research, which projects the industry could generate $6 billion in Florida sales by 2030.

The 2021 MJBizFactbook projected Florida medical marijuana sales would approach $1.3 billion in 2021 and nearly $2 billion annually by 2025.

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