Buckeye Relief has received the final certificate of operation needed to be fully licensed and operational as a medical marijuana cultivating facility.  The company, which received the highest score in the state out of all the level one applicants, becomes the first level one facility to open in Ohio.  There were 24 provisional licenses issued through the state, 12 level ones and 12 level twos.

Those with a level one cultivation license can grow up to 25,000 square feet of plants while those issued level two license can only grow up to 3,000 square feet of plants. The Department of Commerce inspected the facility located at 33505 Curtis Blvd. in Eastlake on July 25. After receiving a perfect score on the licensing inspection, Buckeye Relief opened for business on July 30.

“It’s really exciting to get up and running first in the state and at the level we have done is really rewarding,” said Andy Rayburn the company’s co-founder and CEO. “I’m really happy for the team we have put together. It wasn’t easy.”

Rayburn approached Eastlake officials with plans for this facility approximately two years ago. The company received a provisional license on Nov. 30 and CT Consultants began construction of the facility Dec. 1.  According to Leslie Brandon, director of communications and community engagement for Buckeye Relief, the 60,000-square-foot facility is environmentally friendly and engineered to produce the highest quality products for patients in Ohio.

The building features a lab for product testing, a cloning room, an extraction area, multiple cultivation rooms and a concrete-steel reinforced vault.  Rayburn said planting will begin July 31. He looks for the first harvest to take place sometime between mid-November and early December.

Following the harvest, plants will go through the process of trimming, drying and packaging.  Rayburn anticipates having product ready for the market by around the first of the year.

“The first primary product we will supply is the highest grade possible flower from the plant and that will be the majority of this market in Ohio,” Rayburn said. “The next most important product will be the oil to go into the vapors pens.

The company is still waiting to hear whether they will receive the extraction license that will allow them to produce the vapor pens. According to Rayburn, they expect to hear about that sometime soon.

“If we are also successful in getting that license we will be producing this amazing line of lotions and oils that literally have an immediate effect on joint pain, arthritis and stuff like that,” Rayburn said.  The company also plans to have a line of gummies and their own brand of chocolate bars, which they plan to expand into other product lines.

Eastlake mayor Dennis Morley sees the opening of Buckeye Relief as big news for both the city and the state.  “For the last two years Andy and I have been working so well together to get this up and running. We are just excited,” Morley said.

He also is excited to see the product when it goes out to all the recipients who he believes will have a better way of life with the help of the serums, candies and other products the company produces.

The location of the facility is also beneficial to Eastlake financially. Just a couple years ago the city was on the verge of going into financial deficit and businesses like Buckeye Relief opening in the city have helped turn the city finances around.  “As we have said from the beginning when we sold the property which sat dormant for 15 years, we made $300,000 profit off that, Morley said.

Additionally, the company brings jobs to Eastlake, which will create a payroll tax.

Buckeye Relief plans to increase its team by 20 to 40 people in cultivation and harvest positions. Currently it has about 15 employees, with plans to increase staff size by the end of the year, Rayburn said. Harvest will be a big employment hiring time, said Rayburn, who plans to hire a minimum of 30 employees.

He estimates by the time he hires all the staff and the security, Buckeye Relief will have about 50 employees by year’s end.

The business will also generate additional revenue for Eastlake in the form of property taxes, but the exact amount is not known yet. The county government will have to do an audit and valuate the property to figure the yearly property tax the business will owe to the city.

Security protocols at the facility are in place. Visitors must provide proof of identification as they enter the site and check in with the front desk. Visitors who proceed past the security entrance are escorted everywhere they go by a security guard.

Security guards also will monitor the premises both externally and internally round the clock, and the building is equipped with more than 140 cameras. All employees and visitors wear and scan security badges at all checkpoints throughout the building.

Buckeye Relief’s head of security is former head of the U.S. Secret Service and White House Security Lewis Merletti, who was also head of security for the Cleveland Browns.

Merletti has previously stated the medical marijuana facility would be more secure than the White House.

“We are just excited about it. It has been a good weekend for Eastlake,” Morley said. “I’m proud to work with Andy’s group because they are number one in the state of Ohio and I know that they are going to continue to be number one in the state of Ohio.”

The state, after legalizing medical marijuana and granting provisional licenses, gave a deadline of Sept. 1 for the businesses to be up in running to receive the final license. Buckeye Relief finished a month ahead of that deadline.

“It took an amazing effort from our team at Buckeye Relief, the City of Eastlake, our construction partner, and local unions to build a facility of this quality and capability in less than eight months,” Rayburn said in a July 30 news release. “Our BR team is already focused on planting and shifting our efforts to producing medicine of the highest quality for Ohio’s patients.”

Published by the News-Herald