By Steve Watkins

Fred Mayerson and Jimmy Gould were business partners for more than two decades, investing in everything from stuffed animal company Build-a-Bear to minor league baseball teams, restaurants and Broadway productions. They grew up as friends in North Avondale.

But they’ve parted ways in the business world, with each now running his own businesses. They’ve even moved offices so they’re on separate floors in the same Scripps Center building that Mayerson and his family own. And they remain great friends.

Gould moved on because he wanted to focus on the business of medical marijuana. He has formed Green Light Acquisitions to push ahead with growing, processing and dispensing marijuana for medical use. Green Light works across the country, but most of its focus is in Ohio, where legislators legalized medical marijuana in September. They haven’t developed rules and regulations yet, but Gould expects dispensaries to be operating in Ohio by the end of the year or during the first half of next year. And he expects Green Light to own companies that operate in that business.

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“I had to find my passion,” Gould told me. “I love to build things. This is going to be the development of a fledgling industry that’s going to take the next 10 years of my life. I believe this will change the lives of many people, and I want that for my legacy.”

Meanwhile, Mayerson continues to invest in companies with high growth potential. He formed a partnership called Maywic Select Investments with Chad Wick, who was founder and CEO of public education philanthropy company KnowledgeWorks Foundation and was previously executive vice president of PNC Bank in Cincinnati and president of Southern Ohio Bank. Mayerson is chairman and managing general partner.

He still has an eye for great deals. Maywic was one of the first investors in Peloton, a hyper-fast-growing maker of exercise bikes featuring technology that allows users to take classes from their homes.

Maywic has invested in about a dozen companies across the country. One is local: Skinny Mom, an online community for new mothers that was recently acquired by Womanista.

“We have some great portfolio companies,” Mayerson said.

He and Wick have attracted investors from Cincinnati, Chicago, New York and California, he said. He didn’t detail the amounts, saying he’s trying to work quietly with Maywic. But Maywic filed plans with the Securities and Exchange Commission in October to raise $25 million.

Mayerson said the parting of ways in the business world was best for him and Gould.

“He’s terrific,” Mayerson said. “New chapters are good things.”

Gould echoed that.

“The most important thing about Freddy and myself is we’re everlasting friends,” he said. “He’s passionate about Maywic, and I just want him to be successful. He’s passionate about what he’s passionate about, and I’m passionate about what I’m passionate about.”

What Gould is clearly passionate about is the medical marijuana business. He fought for legalization of medical marijuana after a ballot attempt he actively backed to change the state constitution to legalize marijuana failed in the fall of 2015. He immediately kept pushing state lawmakers and, by last summer, legislators approved a bill for medical marijuana.

“If somebody can feel better (using medical marijuana), they ought to be able to get it,” Gould said. “I will fight to my death to make sure that happens.”

He’s driven by people he’s seen who have epilepsy, cancer and any number of other afflictions and illnesses who experience almost instant relief from pain and other symptoms when using medical marijuana. Gould is friends with Montel Williams, who uses a strain of cannabis that helps him deal with the effects of multiple sclerosis.

Gould’s backers include basketball star Oscar Robertson. He’s already raised $28 million to support the legal marijuana industry.

Green Light is looking to build infrastructure in the industry. That includes a research center in Ohio as well as vying for a stake in growing and selling medical marijuana.

Gould also sees opportunities across the country. Marijuana is legal in some form in 30 states, covering 63 percent of the population.

“My focus for the next 10 years is to build GLA into the premier cannabis holding company in the nation,” Gould said.