RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Nevada Ellison wants to fulfill a promise to his mother who died from cancer in 2015.
Ellison worked in the cannabis industry in Colorado from 2008 to 2012 before returning to Rapid City. When his mother, Susie, was in what turned out to be the last three months of her life, she called and asked her son for cannabis edibles.
“She was always anti-cannabis,” Ellison said. “She never broke the law her entire life and she called me. She was taking hundreds of milligrams of oxycodone every day. She’s like, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ … It broke her heart to break the law.”
A week later, she called again and asked for more edibles, noting that she now was better able to take care of herself. Ellison took care of his mother for 16 months in Lemmon until she died. Before she did, Susie made her son promise he’d get back in the marijuana business, the Rapid City Journal reported.
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“She made me promise if I had a chance to get back into it, especially in the medical side of it, that I would, and that’s the reason that I’m getting back into it,” he said.
Ellison is now chief operating officer of Black Hills Cannabis Care, which is Rapid City’s first cultivating company approved for a conditional use permit by the city’s Planning Commission.
Ellison runs the business with Jake Johnson, who is the company’s CEO.
Johnson got into the business because he has an uncle who was recently diagnosed with colon cancer and relies on medical marijuana to help manage his pain.
“He knows that his time is running short,” Johnson said.
He said he has friends in the industry and has heard of the medicinal benefits of cannabis and he’s a believer in those benefits.
“Knowing that and (Ellison’s) story, we thought it was the right thing to do, to try and bring the highest quality of medicine to the people in the city,” he said.
The cultivation facility will have four to eight employees, but it won’t be open to the public. It will be located at 1820 Rand Road on the northwest side of Rapid City off of Deadwood Avenue. Ellison said the business will open as soon as the state grants a license.
“We’re trying to get a cultivation going as quickly as possible to help meet the demand of our regional medical cannabis patients and to give them safe access to their medicine,” he said. “Until we get some cultivations going, the dispensaries will have nothing to sell so we are working hard to get that done.”
Cultivation facilities for medical cannabis in Rapid City require a conditional use permit to operate. In order to qualify, applicants must show their facility is at least 1,000 feet from any school and 500 feet from any church, childcare center, public park or residential area. Facilities must be located in heavy industrial or light industrial zoning districts. The city did not set a limit to the number of cultivation facilities within city limits.
Johnson said he and Ellison have been preparing for the business since November 2020 when voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana and have since spent nearly every day on the phone getting everything ready to apply to the state and municipalities for their licenses.
Ellison said each city and each county has different rules. Rapid City’s application included submitting plans for management, operations, security, engineering and seed to sale tracking.
Black Hills Cannabis Care also expects to have dispensaries in Fort Pierre and Belle Fourche, although the Belle Fourche location is listed under Redwater Cannabis Care. The company also has a provisional license for a dispensary in Rapid City. Ellison said they also plan to have a manufacturing facility, as well.
“The patients need to have a large enough variety of products to choose from,” Ellison said. “We’re teaming up with some other locals or South Dakota folks and trying to create a network of people who are going to be in manufacturing so we can get these products moved across the state and have a high quality and a large variety.”
Johnson said those in the industry have a common goal of moving the industry forward, so even though they have competitors, they share information. They’ll be working with Black Hills Cultivation and Supplies to get their equipment.
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