Cannabis plant

One of the last major stories in 2019 was the announcement of what Skip Becker of the La Paz Economic Development Corporation called the biggest investment ever in the Town of Parker:  plans for a facility in Parker South to process industrial hemp.

Becker said the plant will be built by the Calyxar Group on the site of the old Liquid Titan facility. The estimated cost is $25 million. Becker said there will be 99 jobs created with an annual average salary of $65,000.

The tax impact is estimated at $1.5 million each for the Town of Parker and La Paz County in the first three years. For the state, it will be $3.3 million in the first three years.

Becker said the plant has already been approved by the Arizona Department of Agriculture and has the strong support of State Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, who is also the Majority Whip. It also qualifies for state incentives from the Economic Development Authority.

The plant will be built on private property that’s already zoned for industry.

“All we want from the Town is to expedite the building permits,” Becker said.

Hemp had been for over 40 years a Level 1 Controlled Substance, like marijuana, heroin or cocaine. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was removed from the description of marijuana and its cultivation, while regulated, was made legal.

John Knight, CEO of Calyxar, said Arizona has the potential for two hemp crops per year, but the state does not have the capacity to process it. He said that, for top quality hemp, one needs to be close to growers, and there are some big ones in the Yuma area.

Borrelli, who was present at the Dec. 17 council meeting, said this facility will be responsibly regulated by the U.S. and Arizona Departments of Agriculture. He added Gov. Doug Ducey is excited about it and the legislature is behind it.

Borrelli said hemp has been a versatile crop for centuries. It has mostly been used to make fabrics and paper, but it has many other uses as well. He said there is no reason why this shouldn’t be grown in Arizona.

“None of this plant is thrown away,” Borrelli said. “It’s all used.”

Becker added the La Paz Development Corporation has a proven track record on agri-business, and cited Rose Acre Farms Lone Cactus Egg Farm as the best example.

Council Member Marion Shontz said she was excited about the proposal.

“It isn’t just what Parker needs,” she said. “It’s what rural Arizona needs.”

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