BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor’s former business growth center may soon be growing more than business contacts.
Representatives from Justice Grown, a medical marijuana company based in Chicago, said they want to buy the building at 200 Paw Paw Ave. to cultivate and process medical marijuana.
They spoke Wednesday during the Benton Harbor Planning and Economic Development Committee. Members approved forwarding the request for consideration to the City Commission.
Mitch Zareduk, the company’s real estate vice president, said Justice Grown was founded five years ago by civil rights attorneys from Loevy and Loevy in Chicago, which is owned by Jon Loevy.
“We’re operating out of five states right now and are looking to expand to Michigan and a couple of other states as well,” he said. “... They are First Amendment attorneys that fight on behalf of wrongful convictions. ... They’re here to fight for the common person. Social justice is their issue.”
Zareduk said the company wants to prepare and process medical marijuana in the former Carl L. Brown Business Growth Center, which hasn’t been regularly used since 2013.
He said the civil rights attorneys realized that social justice and marijuana have a lot in common, with many black men going to prison “for having a bag of dope on them.”
“It’s just not right,” Zareduk said. “It’s what (Jon Loevy) wants to fight for. He thought that (by) getting into a social justice company that is also working with medical marijuana, he could make a difference.”
He said they are dedicated to hiring local minorities to work in the business.
In addition, he said Justice Grown is an applicant to open a medical marijuana dispensary on Main Street.
“We want to start a relationship with Benton Harbor,” he said.
He said they are willing to pay $175,000 in cash if the city and state approve the necessary medical marijuana licenses.
“Right now, that building might be more than we need,” Zareduk said. “We’re willing to share the building. Perhaps even host some community events there.”
Zareduk said plans would involve dividing up the building for such events. After the meeting, they said one of their businesses in Santa Rosa, Calif., has a community center that is used to host a variety of events.
In Michigan, Belicia “Bea” Hicks would be the CEO.
“Everywhere we open, we’re active in the community and make a difference,” Hicks said.
In 2016, a church and Mosaic CCDA wanted to buy 200 Paw Paw Ave., but were told they couldn’t because it had been built in the 1990s using federal money.
After the meeting, City Manager Darwin Watson said that since then, the federal government has released the building so it can be sold by the city.
Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege