Non-profit partners with Youngstown marijuana grow facility
United Returning Citizens, or URC, helps convicted felons get the tools necessary to be self-sufficient taxpaying citizens.
In another effort to help give those men and women a better life, they are partnering with Riviera Creek Holdings, Youngstown's medical marijuana grow facility, to provide a pathway to entrepreneurship.
The program is called URC Grows and is an agriculture based educational and employment program for people incarcerated on marijuana related charges.
"There were so many people that were jailed by this and now that everyone is making money off something that they are already sitting in jail for, we want to give them an opportunity, everyone needs a second chance and these are the things that they can do that were just natural to them that they will thrive in so why not give them this opportunity, said Dionne Dowdy, Executive Director of URC.
There are three phases. First is the education component. 18 months of studying at an accredited school for cannabis. The second phase is workforce development. After graduating, the students will get opportunities to work or intern at Riviera Creek Holdings to get hands-on-training and really learn the business.
"We at Riviera are intending to help build the overall course work, what it looks like and as they graduate, Riviera is intending to bring some of those in house so they wind up with jobs right after graduation and we're excited for that program to begin," said Daniel Kessler, COO of Riviera Creek Holdings.
Students who complete the first two phases will then get the opportunity to grow their own hemp based business. URC received a grant from the Hawhthorne Social Justice Fund to help students buy land or provide startup costs.
"We already have a problem with workforce now but if we're taking the next people that are coming and we're training them and giving them an opportunity to have a job, to have a career to take care of their family, not only would it help them, it would help our city, it would help our community, it will help with the crime," Dowdy said.
"The ability to really integrate people returning, prior felons returning into the workforce, it's an important aspect that again, we share," Kessler said.
Riviera Creek also weighed in on a pending ballot initiative that would make recreational marijuana legal in Ohio. They say if done right with proper regulation and good government participation, they would support it. Brian Kessler, CEO of Riviera Creek says that would lower the risk of people getting a bad product that could potentially be harmful.