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Former school to get new life as grow op

Posted on February 25, 2014 by Maple Creek

Richmound’s school building may soon be getting put to use, but not in a way the community would have ever expected.
A former resident intends to return to his hometown and convert the old school into a medical marijuana growing operation.

Rick Manz has been in discussion with the Village of Richmound and the community about the possible operation, which he would like to have up and running this summer.
Manz, who currently lives in Medicine Hat, recently approached the village proposing to purchase the property for the uncommon business venture. A public meeting was held earlier this month, where about 35 residents came out to learn more about the project and ask questions or voice concerns.
So far, the response from residents has been positive, Manz said.
“Nobody’s against it,” he stated. “The community’s behind it. They got a hold of the RCMP and the RCMP thought it was a great idea, there’s nothing wrong with it. So it’s all coming together and everybody seems to be happy about it.”
Mayor Barry Manz, who is Rick’s father, said he believes it’s a good deal for the village, which has been struggling to sell the building and six-acre property since it was purchased from Chinook School Division for $1 in November 2010.
“You get some income for the property,” he said. “It’s going to provide a few jobs, there’s a business in there, and if they generate some income they’ll have money to maintain the outside so that it’s kept up. I think it’s a plus-plus situation.”
At the public meeting, no taxpayers said they were adamantly against a medical marijuana operation at the former school, but some stated they would like more information on it before forming an opinion.
A final public meeting will be held in Richmound on Thursday.
Rick said he wants to be as transparent as possible with the community about the proposed operation.
“A person could go buy the school, but I wanted to be up front and open with the community and let them know exactly what’s going on,” he said.
The Richmound School was closed in 2008 and the village has had it for sale for the past three years. Council had been wondering if it had a white elephant on its hands.
“Right now the school is sitting empty, deteriorating, doing nothing, and this would be a legal business controlled by the government,” Barry explained.
Rick first decided to look into becoming a medical marijuana grower after learning of a conference in Toronto detailing medical marijuana. Changes to the Government of Canada’s “pot policy” piqued his interest, as Ottawa’s new policy will take away existing licenses that give patients the right to grow their own pot. It comes into effect March 31.
“I checked out the seminar and learned as much as I could about the process the government has in mind,” Rick said. “I knew if I did want to open up something like this then I’d have to find a suitable location that’s going to be in compliance with the Canadian government. I knew that the school out in Richmound was vacant, so I approached the community.”
Rick is heading the proposed operation by himself, which will involve forming a corporation with investors. The company will have a CEO, manager and quality assurance person as well as another five to 10 employees. All employees would be required to have security screening, including finger printing and a criminal record check. He intends to hire local residents.
Rick was in Kelowna, B.C. last week for a two-day quality assurance program.
To become a licensed grower, he must send an application to the Canadian government for review and screening of all the individuals who will be involved. If that stage is passed, Ottawa will look at his proposal, reviewing the building itself, the security that will be in place and the location. He must submit information on security measures such as fencing, cameras and other implementations. If this receives a green light, Rick will complete renovations as required. An inspection is then done, after which he will receive a license if the facility is in compliance.
This process will take approximately three months.
Rick intends to begin the medical marijuana operation in one section of the 20,000 square foot building and eventually expand throughout the facility. He expects to be producing about 100 pounds of marijuana a month.
According to Rick, the operation will not interfere with the community at all.
“There’s no smell of it, there’s no noise, you won’t even know what’s going on actually,” he explained. “The whole idea behind it is not to be out there in the open saying, ‘Yes, this is what this does.’ It’s going to be nice and quiet.”
He believes it will be a good thing for Richmound.
“The school’s vacant now. (The village) will get their tax money, and people will be employed from it.”
He hopes to have a license and everything in place to begin operation in June.

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