If you talk to the people living near an old warehouse just east of U.S. 19 near 31st Street and 39th Avenue, they’ll tell you it’s been abandoned for years. It used to be frequented by the homeless.
Now, with an effort underway to turn that vacant warehouse into a medical marijuana grow facility, neighbors like Gordon Smith say it's unsettling.
“In my opinion, I don’t like the idea all the way around,” said Gordon Smith.
“People don’t want to have that in their neighborhood,” said Teresa Phillips. “They should put it out on a local street or something, not back in a neighborhood.”
Brendan Markopoulos, the CEO who took the lead on transforming the 20,000-square-foot facility, already has permission from the city to grow hops, a key ingredient in making beer.
“Giving these breweries the ability to come in and hand-pick their own harvest and put those directly into their kettle within three days, it's giving the consumer something that Florida consumers just have never had.” he said.
Markopoulos recently teamed with Oscar Mouton, a founder of Gulf Coast Canna Meds, to turn the warehouse into a medical marijuana grow facility. The plan includes selling it to local dispensaries.
Mouton says their passion is to help others. They both are veterans and have personal stories of how medical cannabis has helped their comrades.
“I’ve had friends suffering from PTSD being treated with opioids and psychotropic drugs, which isn’t the answer,” Mouton said. “That’s our drive. Trying to help people with a very natural and very effective way.”
Mouton says he’s working with a horticulturist and a group in Colorado to guide them through the licensing process.
Neighbors’ concerns include smell, lighting and safety concern, which Mouton and Markopoulos are addressing.
“If it’s important to neighbors, it’s important to us.” Mouton said.
Neighbor Sacuon Tach says he supports the plan.
“For me, I’m fine with that, no problem with me.”
Approval from the city would make it the first medical marijuana grow house in Pinellas County.
The hops side of things is set to start production in an estimated 45 days.
There are other medical marijuana greenhouses in the Tampa Bay area, and only 13 in Florida.
The city’s development review board was set to vote on the grow house project Wednesday but it got deferred to next month.
►Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the 10 News app now.