SPRINGFIELD — Armed with a new minority business partner and a pledge to be a driving force for jobs and economic activity, the chief executive of Diem Cannabis says he is ready to reapply for permits for a major marijuana retail and cultivation business at the Eastfield Mall.
Chris Mitchem detailed plans for the marijuana business during a Friday visit to the mall site on Boston Road, where the business is planned at the former Macy’s department store. Diem is a family-owned business based in Oregon, and has been pursuing plans at the mall for three years, Mitchem said.
If approved, Diem Cannabis would be the largest marijuana retail-cultivation business on the eastern seaboard, and would create an estimated 100 full-time jobs, Mitchem said.
Diem Cannabis announced it has partnered with Old Post Road Development Corp., led by Luiselis Hernandez of Springfield, as part of the ownership group in the Springfield venture.
“I think we have an extremely attractive offering for the city,” Mitchem said. “Not only are we minority-owned, but we are going to create so many jobs and economic activity with the scale of this project. It’s a very, very exciting opportunity for the city of Springfield.”
The former Macy’s building is 250,000 square feet, and Diem still plans to have the retail business on the first floor and the cultivation business on the second floor, Mitchem said.
The city announced last month that it is preparing to accept a second round of applications for marijuana shops and cultivation in Springfield. The mayor’s office negotiated host community agreements with four businesses in the first round. None have opened yet.
Diem applied for a retail license in Springfield in 2018 and its application was ranked seventh.
Hernandez has operated multiple businesses and was described by Diem as “a powerful female Latina voice and pillar of the Springfield community.” She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Mitchem said he envisions “an experience where the public can come in and actually see what the cannabis industry looks like.”
In Oregon, Diem operates a 50,000-square-foot cannabis farm along with two retail shops and a home delivery service. It recently launched a marijuana shop in Worcester.
Mitchem described Diem as “kind of a perfect-sized company.”
“We are not a monster corporation, led by a bunch of suits not involved in the community,” Mitchem said. “We’re also not an upstart.”
“For the past several years we have been working with the City of Springfield on the development of the cannabis industry, and we are proud to partner with a female-minority owned business like Old Post Road on a project of this size,” he said.
“We hope to make a positive impact on the neighborhood both socially and economically by creating hundreds of well paying jobs for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.”
Since opening its dispensary in Worcester, Diem Cannabis has created 25 local jobs, drawing 68% of its workforce from minority communities, Mitchem said.
Diem plans to employ at least a 50% minority workforce in Springfield, where workers can expect to be paid much higher than minimum wage with benefits, Mitchem said. The percentage of the minority workforce could be higher than in Worcester, he said.
Diem Cannabis has over four years of experience running a cannabis business, “and has a proven track record of rolling out dispensaries safely and efficiently,” Mitchem said.
Since launching its marijuana business in Salem, Oregon, in 2016, the company “has never had a single compliance issue despite many mandatory audits and inspections from state regulators,” said John DiNovella, director of operations for Diem Cannabis.