Ohio picks 12 large growers for medical marijuana program

By Julie Carr Smyth

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Ohio selected 12 large growers to participate in its medical marijuana program Thursday in a competitive process that quickly drew a prospective legal challenge.

In announcing the large cultivators and a final small grower, the state rounded out the list of 24 companies authorized to produce medicinal crops under a new system expected to go live by September.

Hours after Ohio’s Department of Commerce announced the marijuana grower license recipients, an unsuccessful applicant rejected the state’s decision and said it planned to challenge the selection process.

“Our legal experts have uncovered several fatal flaws, and more are expected to be uncovered,” CannAscend CEO Jimmy Gould said in a statement. He plans to discuss his concerns at a Friday press conference.

Ohio is the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. The state’s cultivator program drew hundreds of applications from investors who found Ohio attractive because they believe it’s learned the lessons of other states, from federal raids on Montana cultivators to harsh restrictions in Illinois that hampered patient access and curbed demand.

The winning applicants plan to build their facilities across the state, from the tiny Appalachian village of Mount Orab to the tire manufacturing hub of Akron in industrial northeast Ohio.

Large growers paid $20,000 to apply to operate sites up to 25,000 square feet. Initial license fees were $180,000 and renewals will cost $200,000 annually.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski said all of the sites will be indoor, high-security, regulated businesses — not outdoor farms or even the type of traditional greenhouses that Ohioans might envision.

“As you drive by, you won’t necessarily know these are grow facilities,” she said.

The companies have nine months to get their businesses operational and a state team must visit before they get a certificate that allows them to grow, she said.

Ohio’s medical marijuana law, passed last year, allows people with medical conditions such as cancer and epilepsy to buy and use marijuana if a doctor recommends it. It doesn’t allow smoking. Among those selected Thursday: Grow Ohio Pharmaceuticals LLC in Newton Township, Muskingum County