Ohio’s nascent medical marijuana industry took a giant step today when the state of Ohio awarded a dozen large-scale grower licenses, including one near Springfield and one in Yellow Springs.
The 12 winners, selected from a pool of 109 applicants, will be spread across the state from Brown to Erie counties.
The company Pure Ohio Wellness plans to renovate an existing building at 4020 Dayton-Springfield Road in Mad River Twp., outside of Springfield.
Company co-owner Larry Pegram said Pure Ohio Wellness is an Ohio-based company, though records say the company’s related entities are involved in growing and retail marijuana businesses in Colorado and Nevada.
“We approached this endeavor with the goal of bringing excellence to the medical marijuana field in Ohio. Now that we are in a position to do that, we will not let the people of the state down,” Pegram said Thursday.
In Yellow Springs, Cresco Labs Ohio LLC will build a facility on Dayton Street, across the road from Yellow Springs High School but far enough away to meet the state’s guidelines, city officials say.
“We’re extremely happy. It’s a great business. It fits very well in Yellow Springs,” said village council president Karen Wintrow.
“The company’s values align with ours,” she said, noting the facility is agricultural and medicinal.
She said there was no vocal opposition to the proposal. She believes her community’s support of the venture played a major role in Cresco getting the license.
Cresco plans to build two attached buildings -- a 23,294-squre-foot steel greenhouse and a 26,445-square-foot processing building -- at 904 Dayton Street adjacent to Antioch University.
The land is currently owned by the village. Cresco has agreed to pay $160,000 for an 8-acre parcel and is in negotiation on whether to buy an additional two acres.
Cresco’s related entities are involved in the marijuana industry in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.
Cresco is a partnership of 28 owners, including four Republican political consultants: twin brothers Chris and Mike Schrimpf who worked on the Kasich presidential campaign and Columbus-based lobbyists Troy Judy and Chad Hawley, former top-level staffers to former House Speaker William Batchelder.
Cresco Chief Executive Charlie Bachtell said the company will break ground on a modern hybrid-greenhouse building with a translucent roof as soon as possible and be ready to plant its first seeds in four to five months. “We anticipate being able to move forward very quickly,” he said.
Initially, Cresco’s Yellow Springs operations will employ about 30 people but ramp up to 75 full-time staff and another 20 part-time workers, Bachtell said. Once 25,000-square-feet of grow space is in use, Cresco expects to produce 8,000 pounds of medical marijuana each year, he said.
Site plans allow for additional growing and processing buildings to be added to the property as the company expands over time.
Wintrow said Cresco hopes to get a license to process medical cannabis at the site, converting it from plant to product form, but Wintrow said no companies are planning to seek a license open a dispensary to sell the product in Yellow Springs.
Cresco has applied for five dispensary licenses across Ohio, including one on Linden Avenue in Dayton.
Statewide, the operations licensed Thursday will be allowed to grow marijuana on more than 330,000-square-feet of cultivation area.
Mixed reaction in Mad River
The Mad River Twp. site will fill a vacant building, create jobs and pump money into the local economy, Township Trustee Joe Catanzaro said.
“It was an empty building in our community and an expensive building,” he said. “We’re glad someone has purchased it. It’s a very expensive, beautiful building in a good location for somebody. It’s all positive to me. I’m very happy.”
The company is expected to initially hire 20 people and could employ up to 50 as the state allows them to expand, officials told this news organization earlier this year. The former Eagle Beverage site is currently valued at about $608,000, according to the Clark County Auditor’s Office.
Catanzaro doesn’t expect any issues with security at the facility because the industry is extremely regulated, he said.
“I sort of feel sorry for the company,” Catanzaro said. “They’re braver souls than me to do this. The security is just going to be terrific. It’s extreme. It’s a safe and professional business.”
Pure Ohio Wellness, LLC, is also seeking a dispensary in the city of Springfield at 1711 W. Main St., according to city zoning records.
The medical marijuana growing facility will be good for the economy, said Enon resident Arthur Willis who was getting gas in the village on Thursday afternoon. He’s also not concerned about security.
“Other states have shown they can do it just fine,” Willis said.
The industry isn’t about helping people, but rather making money, Mad River Twp. resident Jeff Ballard said. He believes medical marijuana will lead to the legalization of marijuana throughout Ohio.
“The only reason they want (to grow medical marijuana) is to make money,” Ballard said. “I’m thoroughly opposed to it.”
‘It fits Yellow Springs’
There was little opposition to the Yellow Sprnigs license on the streets of the village Thursday.
“It fits Yellow Springs,” said Judy Cordell, who has lived in the village all of her 62 years.
Down the street from the laundromat where Cordell was doing her laundry, a utility box is slapped with bumper stickers, including one that says, “Medically speaking, what harm does marijuana do to terminally ill patients?”
The city-owned property including the parcel to be sold to Cresco is visible from where students get on and off the bus at the Greene County Educational Service center, next to the high school.
It’s also visible from the porch of Jim Spangler and Megan Trolander, who live across from the school. But their only concerns are with noise and light pollution, not with anything pot-related.
“They’ll have a fence around it and it’ll be a locked up compound, I think,” Trolander said.
Tristen Pitzer, a barista at Dino’s Cappucino’s in downtown Yellow Springs, said overall most townies probably have no problem with it, but he expects to hear some gripes, considering the culture of the village known for progressive activism.
“There’s always griping when something new happens,” he said. “It takes six people to change a light bulb in Yellow Springs. One to do it and five to complain about how the old one was better.”
A yearslong process
The awards come nearly a month after the state announced licenses for 11 small-scale growers out of a pool of 76 applicants.
Thomas Rosenberger, Executive Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio, said in a written statement, “Today’s announcement marks the end of a long and highly competitive licensing process for cultivators. The applicants who were awarded provisional licenses today have clearly demonstrated that they are among the leaders of this industry, and we look forward to working with them to provide patients safe access to medical marijuana.”
In November 2015, Ohio voters rejected a ballot issue calling for legalization of medical and recreational marijuana. But strong public support for medical marijuana as well as the threat of another ballot issue prompted lawmakers to craft a legal medical marijuana law.
In June 2016, 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. Patients and their caregivers will be allowed to possess up to a 90 day supply. Smoking or home growing it is barred.
The Medical Marijuana Control Program is jointly managed by the commerce department, pharmacy board and state medical board. Regulators have been busy writing rules and guidelines for growers, processors, testing labs, dispensaries, patients and caregivers as well as reviewing and scoring applications for licenses.
On Nov. 17, the state received 370 applications for up to 60 dispensary licenses. Private lab license applications are due Dec. 8 and processor license applications are due Dec. 15. The entire program, which is expected to be funded by fees, is required to be fully operational by Sept. 8, 2018.
Twenty-nine states have legalized medical use of marijuana and eight states have approved it for recreational use. Marijuana is still classified as a prohibited controlled substance under federal law with no recognized medical uses.