Company plans to establish hemp facility in Evart

Research and development is main goal

United We Stand, LLC, has submitted a proposal to purchase two lots in the industrial park for the purpose of establishing a research and development facility to develop products made from hemp.

United We Stand, LLC, has submitted a proposal to purchase two lots in the industrial park for the purpose of establishing a research and development facility to develop products made from hemp.

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EVART — A different kind of cannabis company may be coming to the Evart Industrial Park.

United We Stand, LLC, has submitted a proposal to purchase two lots in the industrial park for the purpose of establishing a research and development facility to develop products made from hemp.

Hemp, or industrial hemp, is the same species of plant as cannabis but contains less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the element that produces the “high.”

It can be refined into a variety of commercial items, including paper, rope, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.

The 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to grow hemp throughout the United States and made hemp-derived CBD products federally legal.
Marijuana, or cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC, isn’t federally legal, but was legalized in Michigan for medical use in 2008 and for recreational use in 2018.

“This is a community development project,” partner Robb LaPeen said. “It will be a little different than what everybody is used to because we will be focused on research and development, and education and training."

“THC cannabis is not our primary focus, although it is something that we use in our treatments,” he added. “It is part of the industry we can’t ignore because right now; it is primarily the only way to make any income off from cannabis. So, it is a means to the future training facility and everything else.” 

LaPeen said the first stage will be to get the research and development lab established, and then develop the training and education center. Future expansion will include an indoor grow and processing facility and possible a retail store.

“It is going to be one project at a time, and it will take about five years to develop it all,” he said. “We have three projects that will go hand in hand — the research and development center, the training and education center, and the wellness center.”

The research and development will focus on biofuels, plastics and alternate energy research, LaPeen said.

“Everything that we do is going to center around the community,” he said. “We are going to be designing our buildings to use alternative energy, so we are not drawing on the community’s energy supply. We hope to produce enough to sell it back to the city for less than what they pay now.”

The training center will focus on teaching how to grow product, marketing and development of products, and research and development of new products, LaPeen said.

“Many people don’t know the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana, so that will be part of our training,” he said. “We can train people on plants for THC cannabis or hemp products, and they will be able to go over to another grow facility and get a job or work on a hemp farm. We will be focusing on veterans but anybody that wants to get into the industry can come to our center.”

LaPeen said they eventually plan to establish an on-site grow facility where they will grow different strains of hemp.

“On-site it will be indoor and will be craft products — different strains for different products,” he said. “For different products like paper, or high octane fuel, you have to grow different strains — not everyone works the same. Even the fibers on the outside of the plant that are used for textiles requires different strains.”

In addition, the company plans to use the hemp to extract oils to be used in a planned wellness center. LaPeen currently runs a wellness center in Birch Run where they sell CBD products along with other herbs and supplements and have a café with organic foods. They work with patients teaching about diet and uses of various hemp derived oils for chronic illnesses.

“We hope to bring that same type of wellness center to the Evart site,” he said.

One of the partners, Dr. Steven Kalesperis, previously purchased 80 acres of agriculturally zoned property in Evart and has applied for a Class A medical grow license, which would allow him to grow up to 500 plants.

“He was really interested in getting into the cannabis industry as a treatment option for his patients,” LaPeen said. “He and I met up, and he realized that I had been working with patients for over 10 years, and we started working hand in hand to treat patients. He is writing papers and documenting information. We are trying to do research and development so we can get the treatments into the mainstream medical field.”

LaPeen said they had been in conversations about where to develop their research lab and Kalesperis noticed the property in the industrial park.

“He had been driving by the property and decided to ask the city if it was for sale,” LaPeen said. “Then we found out it had already been zoned for cannabis industry and decided that was exactly what we needed for our facility.”

Originally intending to purchase several lots, they were offered a counter proposal by the city to purchase two lots with an option to purchase additional lots at some future date as needed.

The most recent offer presented to the council was for the purchase of Lot 2 at $415,000 and Lot 3 at the assessed value that is yet to be determined.

The sale is intended to be a land contract with one-fourth of the total sale price paid at the time of closing and the remainder paid in three annual payments equal to one-third of the remaining balance plus accrued interest.

The purchase agreement has not yet been approved by the council. 

Evart city clerk Kathy Fiebig said they are waiting on additional financial information from the partners before approving the purchase agreement.

“They have asked the city to carry this on a land contract, which may or may not be legal, so we are consulting our attorneys,” Fiebig added. “That request makes proof of financials even more important.” 

The development will be required to go through the same process as similar industries within the Airport Industrial Park, including, establishing a development agreement; planning commission review of site plans; special use permitting; licensing; and any other requirements set forth in city statues.
 
If, and when, the project gets off the ground, there is the potential to bring well over 100 jobs to the Evart area, LaPeen said.