Local medical marijuana grower stuck in regulatory limbo

Local entrepreneur Jason Wilson is sitting in regulatory limbo as he tries to launch his $4.3 million medical marijuana cultivation facility in the Miami Valley.

The owner of Paragon Development Group LLC said he got approval from Huber Heights officials to build a grow facility and he listed the 6210 Executive Blvd as the address in his license application submitted to the state. He was among the dozen businesses awarded provisional licenses in November 2017.

But in January 2018, Huber Heights City Council voted to put a moratorium on marijuana businesses. “They basically told us we weren’t welcome anymore,” said Wilson, a U.S. Navy veteran who has owned multiple businesses.

Here is where the Catch 22 comes for Paragon: the state law prohibits a licensed cultivator from changing locations until after it has a certificate of operation, which means Paragon has to have built its facility; the company can’t even get a building permit because of the city moratorium.

Huber Heights City Manager Robert Schommer could not be immediately reached for comment.

Wilson is waiting on a fix from state regulators. If approved, the director of the Department of Commerce would be allowed to approve a variance, which would let Paragon change its address.

Wilson said he already purchased land to build his indoor grow facility in Bethel Township near Tipp City.

He declined to disclose whether he’ll take legal action against Huber Heights.

Ohio’s new medical marijuana program continues to experience growing pains — high prices, limited access — but sales continue to rise, according to state data. Since Jan. 16, 456 pounds of plant material have been sold, generating $3.43 million in revenues. The prices per ounce have hovered between $440 and $480.

Mark Hamlin, a senior advisor for the state Department of Commerce, said he expects prices to normalize once the industry more businesses are in the market with more product.

Related: Medical marijuana prices will come down as industry grows in Ohio, experts say

So far 13 of 56 dispensaries, three of five testing labs, two of 39 processors and 17 of 29 cultivators have their operation certificates from the state.

Hamlin said the state granted time extensions to some licensees to get their certificates but officials are taking enforcement action — fines, additional conditions or even revocation — against those who aren’t making progress toward being ready to operate.

“We don’t want people treading water, not working in good faith,” he said.

The program has 24,556 registered patients, including 1,947 veterans, 128 with terminal diagnoses, and 895 who are indigent. More than half are over age 50.

Patients can take medical marijuana for multiple conditions: 18,248 cite chronic pain, 4,371 cite post traumatic stress disorder, 3,295 cite fibromyalgia, and 1,861 cite cancer.

The State Medical Board of Ohio is reviewing whether to add qualifying conditions — autism spectrum disorder, opioid addiction, anxiety, depression and insomnia — to the 21 conditions already approved. A decision is expected by July. Earlier this week, the medical board added 22 more physicians to the 469 certified to recommend medical marijuana to their patients.

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