Mark III demolition begins ahead of marijuana project

The Art of Destruction A &A Trucking and Excavating tears out the office portion of the old Mark III conversion van plant in Ocala on July 20. [Alan Youngblood/Special to Ocala Gazette]
Almost two years after it was first announced, work has started on the site of a planned marijuana cultivation and processing hub on part of a former van conversion plant in Northwest Ocala.

This week, demolition of some of the buildings of the former Mark III plant located along the 5400 block of Northwest 44th Avenue began in earnest.

Green Thumb Industries (GTI) will lease a 28-acre portion of the site, which is near the planned Interstate-75 interchange at Northwest 49th Street.

The initial plans, announced in Nov. 2019 called for the first phase of the project to be ready by the end of 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on the project.

GTI, a Chicago-based company specializing in medical marijuana cultivation, plans an estimated $20 million in renovations.

It is estimated that GTI will supply medicinal marijuana products to approximately 35 dispensaries in the state.

Kevin Sheilley, president and CEO of the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership, said construction of the first phase is set to begin as soon as demolition is completed.

“We hope to keep Green Thumb here for phase two of the demolition and rebuild,” Sheilley said. “Additional capital investments will be necessary.”

The project will create about 100 new jobs in the area, he said.

Recently another company, Green Ops Group, based in Columbus, Ohio, also started work on transforming an Ocala warehouse into a cultivation facility.

Green Ops has plans for a 60,000-square-foot grow facility in Ocala, as well as a storefront for distribution on Pine Avenue.

Ocala is home to several legal marijuana dispensaries including, Curaleaf, Trulieve, Surterra Wellness, Tierra Healthcare Concepts and Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida. The first dispensary opened in 2018.

While marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, Florida voters approved medical marijuana through a constitutional amendment in 2016. It wasn’t until 2019 that the state permitted users to legally smoke the drug. A doctor’s prescription is required.

The law requires companies like GTI to sell only what they grow and process, a concept known as vertical integration.

GTI operates retail locations in 10 states. In Florida, they operate under the name Rise. Currently, they have seven locations in the state but can operate up to 35 locations under its current license.

While medical marijuana use in Florida is legal, recreational use remains illegal.

For more information about Green Thumb Industries, visit www.gtigrows.com

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