The site of a former state prison in New York’s Hudson Valley is being transformed into a $150 million “cannabis campus” by Green Thumb Industries, one of the nation’s largest producers of legal marijuana. The planned facility at the former penitentiary in Warwick, New York will produce tens of thousands of pounds of cannabis for the state’s upcoming, recreational marijuana economy, which was legalized by legislators earlier this year.
Until 10 years ago, the 38-acre plot of land purchased by Green Thumb Industries (GTI) was part of the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility, housing inmates sent to prison for marijuana offenses and other crimes. The institution dates back to 1914, when it was opened as a drug and alcohol treatment center known as the New York City Farm.
In the 1930s, the facility was converted to the New York State Training School for Boys to house wayward youth from the city. In the 1970s, the location was changed to a prison for adult inmates before being shut down by Andrew Cuomo in 2011, the governor of New York at the time.
At a groundbreaking ceremony for the new cannabis production facility held earlier this month, GTI president Ben Kovler noted the significance of the new use for the site.
“The irony of building a cannabis facility near the grounds of what used to be a federal prison is not lost on us,” Kovler said. “Change is really in the air; change is happening in the country; change is happening here. And we’re able to go from a place where people used to be locked up for marijuana [to one] where we’re going to employ people and enable opportunity, create wealth and create a positive economic environment.”
New York Leaders See ‘A Brave New World’ in Cannabis
After the prison closed in 2011, local leaders began looking for ways to replace the 400 jobs the facility had provided the community. Warwick town supervisor Michael Sweeton set up a nonprofit development corporation and convinced the state to sell 150 acres of the property to the new entity for $4 million, which was paid with a loan from a local businessman.
In 2018, the development corporation began selling plots of land, including a $526,000 sale of about eight acres to Citiva, a subsidiary of New York-based cannabis company iAnthus. Since then, a cannabis testing laboratory and a CBD products manufacturer have also opened facilities on the property.
GTI has invested $2.8 million for its 38-acre plot of land in a deal that included millions of dollars in tax incentives for the company. GTI plans to develop the property in three stages, creating 100 union jobs in the construction process. The first stage of construction will feature a $60 million cultivation facility spanning 200,000 square feet. Cannabis products manufacturing operations are also planned for the site, resulting in a facility worth an estimated $150 million. When completed, GTI’s cannabis campus will employ about 150 people earning salaries ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.
“Our fertile soil, educated workforce and close proximity to New York City sets us up to be the Silicon Valley for the cannabis industry,” state Sen. Michael Martucci said at the September 9 groundbreaking ceremony.
Town supervisor Sweeton said that the deal with GTI, which included property and sales tax breaks, would be a boon for the local economy.
“I think it’s just a home run for us,” Sweeton said. “We are a farm community economy—we have a lot of farm tourism, a lot of active farms, but we don’t really have much of the corporate realm. This is a brave new world.”
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.