Medical marijuana is already available for sale in a local dispensary, and now, local cultivators have been given the green light to begin growing strains, according to Illinois Department of Agriculture.

While the region is still a few months away from seeing locally grown medical marijuana in the dispensaries, both cultivators in Southern Illinois — in Murphysboro and Anna — are beginning the process.

Tom Jennings, co-manager of Ieso, the cultivation center at Southern Illinois Airport, said there is a 23,000 square-foot greenhouse at the facility and the entire footprint of the building is 46,000 square feet.

The general contractor of the building, J&L Robinson, which Jennings praised, said the facility was built in 100 days from the first day dirt was moved. Also, the relationship with the county and airport have been favorable, said Jennings.

“We couldn’t ask for a better relationship,” he said. “We are glad to be here.”

Jennings said it was important to grow in a greenhouse, and there is 75 percent energy savings in greenhouse growth as opposed to indoor growth.

“We are trying to be as green about this as we can,” he said.

He said it will also bring the pharmaceutical quantity to the product that the market will desire, and greenhouses will make it easier to expand in the future.

“We are dedicated to putting out a quality product,” Jennings said. “We are optimistic that the marketplace will materialize.”

In early November, Jennings said the cultivator had about 14 people and was looking for about 20 in total, and it will most likely begin looking for more employees after production gets moving forward.

He said there have been higher projections in media about the number of jobs available.

“We don’t want to mislead people,” Jennings said.

In Anna, Paul Montes, managing partner of Wellness Group Pharms, said the 27,000-square-foot facility has started production and is excited about moving forward.

“That has been the goal,” he said. “This is just the first step.”

Montes said the cultivation center has a staff of eight as of Tuesday, but it is still looking for more employees for its growing team and security.

“As we ramp up our production, we are going to continue to grow our team and add security and transportation team as well,” he said.

Those interested in employment with Wellness Pharms can visit www.wgpharms.com.

Montes said the cultivation plant will have eight different strains of medical marijuana and it will have the exclusive rights to Charlotte’s Web, a strain that is extremely effective with seizures, mainly childhood seizures.

“It is a huge responsibility for us and we are really excited to lucky enough to have that ability in Illinois,” he said.

Montes said now it is time to really get the medicine into the hands of the people who really need it.

“Now we have to grow the medicine and get it out to the public and distribute,” he said. “By no means are we done and by no means is the industry done.

He said all the cultivators have a tremendous responsibility, as does the dispensaries as its gets the product to the public.

“Collectively, we are all in this together,” he said.

As for the Southern Illinois dispensaries, Harbory in Marion has been up and running since Nov. 9.

The other two facilities, Thrive Anna and Thrive Harrisburg, are still in the construction phase, according to Gorgi Naumovski, general manager of the dispensaries.

He said each building will be 3,300 square feet and he hopes to be finished with construction by the end of January, weather permitting.

Naumovski said the timeline coincides with the time that most cultivators will have product.

“We are trying to coordinate with the suppliers in all,” he said. “There wasn’t going to be an ample supply now.”

He said he plans to work with both Wellness Pharms and Ieso for product.

Naumovski said there are plans to hire about 15 to 20 employees at each facility and to host a job fair in early January, he said.

“This is definitely leading edge for the state,” he said. “Getting the patients their cards is the biggest things. Hopefully we can get his thing started and eventually extend the pilot program.”

The program is set to expire in 2018.

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Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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