Riviera Creek Cultivates First Marijuana Harvest

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The first crop of legally grown medical marijuana in the city was harvested on Thursday, the start of what local cultivators say is a thriving future market for the industry in Ohio.

“The industry is being very well supported,” said Brian Kessler, chairman of Riviera Creek LLC, a Level I cultivator here. “Patient count in the state is almost at 20,000 within a couple months, which is good.”

Riviera Creek was awarded a Level I cultivation license by the state in 2017 and has rehabilitated a former warehouse in the Riverbend district into a sophisticated, high-tech growing operation. It will take several weeks before this harvest is sold in dispensaries, Kessler said, but it’s the first step in developing what could be an exciting new industry in the city. Kessler said that there are verbal commitments for the entire first harvest, which amounts to “hundreds of pounds” of medical marijuana.

“Everybody is asking for product,” he said. “The processors are trying to get up and running, the dispensaries are looking to get up and running, and people are looking for product to be made available for sale.”

Six dispensaries are now operating across the state. Just last week, FarmaceuticalRX opened the first dispensary in the tri-county area in East Liverpool. Soon, those dispensaries are likely to carry the Riviera Creek’s three brand names of medical marijuana, all of which reflect the history and culture of Youngstown.

“We’re launching Idora, Stambaugh and Gypsy,” named after Gypsy Lane, Kessler said. “My family has been here for more than 100 years, and I appreciate and respect the community. We can carry on our product with an association of who we are.”

Kessler and his nephew, company president Daniel Kessler, established the company in order to secure a Level I license, which allows up to 25,000 square feet of cultivation space for the plants. The Kesslers spent more than a year to create a highly secure and antiseptic environment in which the plants are grown.

Much of the process is protected by intellectual property, but the Kesslers have assembled a highly technical way to grow these plants without any contact with soil.

“Nothing touches our plants except air, water, nutrients, and light – that’s completely different than anything else in the world,” Brian Kessler said. “It allows us to have a lot of control over the medicine that we’re trying to provide to consumers.”

Small branches from mother plants are snipped off and then replanted in the company’s hydroponic growing system, a process called “cloning.” The new plants are ready for harvest within 12 to 14 weeks. “It’s the ongoing daily heartbeat,” he said. Once harvested, the leaves and buds are cured, dried, sent for testing and then shipped to market in Riviera Creek packages.

Riviera Creek’s three brand names of medical marijuana — Idora, Stambaugh and Gypsy — reflect the history and culture of Youngstown.

Still, the objective is to produce the best product on the market to serve patients, Kessler said. “It’s all about the patient,” he said. “Our goal here is to make sure the consistency and safety of our product satisfies the end user.”

As an example, Daniel Kessler gestures to a bud with a white tip freshly cut from a plant. “Something really spectacular that we’ve developed is this albino tip,” he said. This particular part of the plant contains a higher level of cannabin oil, which increases the level of THC.

“Since we do so many things uniquely in our facility, when the plant comes out, it’s a very different thing,” Kessler said. “Our internal testing said we did very well for our first harvest.”

Riviera Creek employs 20 at the location now, Kessler said. By the end of this year, he projects that the number of employees could grow to between 50 and 100. Just about all of the employees have some sort of training, or are being trained, in the cannabis industry.

“We will continue to do better,” Kessler said. “Every time we grow, we’ll know more from our last harvest and compare it to future harvests.”

Kessler said that there are always challenges when one launches a new venture, especially an inaugural harvest of medical marijuana. “Trying to figure out if you’re doing it right is always a bit scary,” he said. “But we now have had our first harvest, we have more harvests coming behind it – it’s really exciting.”

Pictured above: Daniel and Brian Kessler, Riviera Creek LLC president/CEO and board chairman, respectively, cultivated their first harvest of medical marijuana.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.