City to hold hemp hearing tonight


Planning commission will consider re-zoning old armory

BUCKHANNON — Local residents will have a chance to comment on the proposed rezoning of the old armory on Route 20 during a public hearing at city hall tonight.

The reclassification would clear the way for a multi-million dollar hemp processing facility to potentially locate there.

The city’s planning commission will convene at 7 p.m. for a public hearing on the rezoning, which would allow the company bioRemedies, MD — a Maryland-based business that produces what it says are pharmaceutical-grade products containing hemp-derived cannabidiol or CBD — to move into the location and establish a processing plant.

The old armory is currently dually classified as an industrial and commercial highway zone, but it’s up to the planning commission to vote on whether or not to recommend reclassifying the area as a simple industrial zone.

If it recommends reclassification to Buckhannon City Council, council will then vote on an ordinance that would effect the change, city attorney Tom O’Neill said Tuesday.

“That (proposed change) would allow them to engage in industrial processes for things that could be considered pharmaceuticals,” O’Neill said. “They cannot engage in the industrial process the way the building is currently zoned, and it would just enable them to do that.”

BioRemedies would be a big boon to the local economy, according to Rob Hinton, executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority.

“The hemp industry is now $400 to $500 million a year industry domestically in the U.S., but it’s projected to grow to about a $5 billion industry by the year 2021, and some are saying that’s a conservative estimate,” Hinton said Tuesday. “This is an exciting opportunity for Buckhannon as well as for West Virginia. This is an industry we do not have. This is about diversifying our economy and placing something in our economy that has a huge growth potential.”

Initially, bioRemedies hopes to hire about 20 people, Hinton said.

“Even though the job creation is going to be small at first, I project it to be really, really significant as the industry grows and we start to see more industrial uses with it being adopted as a raw ingredient for other industrial products,” he said.

And it’s important to understand that the UCDA isn’t backing a marijuana business, Hinton added.

“The biggest thing the public needs to understand is it is hemp, and it is not marijuana,” he said. “That’s kind of our big push is that it is not marijuana.”

Hinton noted marijuana ­— both for medicinal and recreational purposes — is still illegal in West Virginia, and said the UCDA wouldn’t throw its support behind something unlawful.

“We’re not in 2019 (when marijuana is expected to be legalized for medical purposes), and it (legalization) hasn’t happened,” Hinton said.

Unlike marijuana, hemp has less than .3 percent of THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, according to a previous Record Delta article. Hemp-derived CBD products are said to reduce pain and help alleviate other ailments.

Mike Oldaker, a contractor with bioRemedies, said rezoning the building would allow the business to operate freely instead of “in segments.”

“If this happens, we don’t have to look at the building in terms of segments,” Oldaker said Tuesday. “We want to process it in the armory, the whole focus of it is processing the hemp.”

And once the business is established, the community is invited to check it out, Oldaker added.

“We want to have tours and other commercial operations inside that building,” he said. “It’s going to be open to the community. We’re trying to bring this out of the darkness and into the light. It’s a very good thing for Upshur County and we want to celebrate.”

Read more about bioRemedies’ products at its website, bioremediesmd.com. 

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