Marijuana growers face June deadline to do business in Ohio

Dozens of major players in the medical marijuana industry are expected to apply by June 30 for 12 large-scale medical marijuana cultivator licenses offered in Ohio.

PharmaCann, an Illinois-based company operating in multiple states, said it is currently negotiating terms for purchase options for parcels across Ohio, said Jeremy Unruh, the company’s general counsel and director of external communications.

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Unruh said if PharmaCann is awarded a large-scale cultivator license in Ohio, it will build a 65,000-square-foot greenhouse facility that employs 30 to 45 workers. The company also plans to seek a dispensary license in Ohio. If licensed, PharmaCann would invest $20-million to $30-million in Ohio, he said.

PharmaCann, a privately-held company with 150 employees, has one four dispensaries and two cultivation facilities in Illinois and one grow site — 135,000-square-feet — and four dispensaries in New York. It is also seeking licenses to do business in Pennsylvania, Unruh said.

PharmaCann is the second company to publicly discuss its Ohio plans. CannAscend Ohio LLC, a new venture backed by Ian James and Jimmy Gould, who ran the unsuccessful ResponsibleOhio campaign, said in March that it signed an option to buy 19 acres in Clinton County for a medical marijuana growing operation.

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Regulation of Ohio’s new medical marijuana industry is being handled by the state Department of Commerce, Ohio Pharmacy Board and State Medical Board.

Ohio will issue up to 12 licenses for large-scale cultivators, which can initially operate on 25,000 square feet, and up to 12 for smaller-scale cultivators, which will start with 3,000 square feet. Applications for small-scale licenses will be accepted by the state June 5 to June 16 and applications for large-scale licenses will be accepted June 19 to June 30.

The applications will be scored based on plans for operations, quality assurance, security and finances.

Ohio legalized medical marijuana last June when Gov. John Kasich signed a bill into law that authorizes use by patients with 21 conditions, including cancer or chronic pain, in the form of edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing. Smoking or home growing it is barred.

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The state law requires the program to be fully operational by this upcoming September. The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program’s rules govern growers, dispensaries, patients, caregivers, physicians, processors and testing labs.

Unruh said Ohio’s program seems to borrow elements from what has worked well in other states. The state set an aggressive timeline for growers to begin operations once licensed, he said.

Marijuana remains classified as an illegal controlled substance under federal law, which makes traditional financing impossible for new cannabis businesses. Still, Unruh said PharmaCann put seeds in the ground within six months of receiving its licenses in Illinois and New York.

Unruh said the length of time it takes for growers to turn a profit depends heavily on how many doctors participate in the program, writing recommendations for medical marijuana use for their patients.


Our Statehouse Bureau reporter Laura Bischoff has been covering the marijuana issue in Ohio for years. Follow her on Twitter at @lbischoff

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