Port director criticizes medical marijuana dispensary

Shots fired, if metaphorically, at the soon to be open medical marijuana dispensary in Marietta.

Andy Kuhn, Southeast Ohio Port Authority’s executive director, published a short blog post on Monday critiquing the improvements CannAscend made to the Michael J. Bradley building at 414 Greene St. for the upcoming opening of the medical marijuana dispensary, Strawberry Fields.

“Well number one, when they started doing that redevelopment, I asked city council [if] they submit renderings to the public record,” said Kuhn when interviewed by the Times Monday. “This is not going to come out anything close… I was in those meetings, and I saw the pictures.”

Kuhn said his contention is not with the business operations themselves, i.e., medical cannabis, but that of the facade and interior renovations accomplished in the improvement of the building and grounds.

“They were pitching that development to be a nice-looking facade improvement with some roadway cutback improvements [and] with some security fencing around it and what is out there now is basically a slapped on a piece of paint on the existing Michael Bradley apparatus building,” Kuhn explained. “And if you go on their website to other renderings to what they’ve built in other towns in Ohio, we’re getting the short straw.”

Kuhn said he had not reached out to the owners of the dispensary before posting his blog.

“I don’t even know who the contacts are. I remember CannAscend were the people (presenting), but even if I did, I’m the Southeastern Port Authority, I’m not the city of Marietta’s code compliance officer,” he continued. “I think it’s a city council question…If they’re going to make facade improvements that [are] aesthetically pleasing and gives us a chance–let’s just say down the road that the business doesn’t succeed–at least if they made improvements enough to the facility new tenants could take it over, then I’m all for it. But it’s another thing to have baseline, bare-bones improvements on and then having a business that still created some community consternation. It’s literally a lose-lose.”

However, council had no hand in requiring specific facade renderings to be adhered to once it removed its moratorium and made no further requirements on zoning or building codes concerning medical marijuana in October 2017.

Council is now back in discussions about future requirements concerning medical marijuana and most recently met on May 21 in Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee with plans to again meet this month to discuss buffering and other requirements the city might consider for future sites.

Those requirements, if passed, wouldn’t affect Strawberry Fields, though, which is now so far in its state-process as to only be governed by the state pharmacy board and medical marijuana control program.

“[The] SEO Port Authority blog post today taking exception with a conceptual exterior and complaining that the exterior renovation and clean-up of the exterior is not to their liking speaks to the saying: ‘Art is in the eye of the beholder,'” said Ian James, CannAscend’s head of corporate development, Monday. “The CannAscend Dispensary took the elements of the concept exterior derided in the blog post today and utilized the elements that could best be implemented right away. The goal is to provide patients in Southeastern Ohio the access to clean, safe and lab tested medical marijuana.”

The dispensary is not yet open, Agent Jason Doty, of the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, confirmed Monday.

“They do not yet have their certificate of operation,” he said.

Though several cars in the business’s parking lot and physical activity in the visible lobby from Greene Street have been noted over the last week, Doty said the dispensary must still be inspected by the state and receive state authorization to begin purchasing medical marijuana products and begin sales.

“My goal is to get in [with law enforcement top brass] and go through the facility and maybe dispel some of the myths but also show them the checks and balances in place from our end and what they need to look out for too when responding if there are calls of theft or if they’re pulling someone over,” said Doty. “We’re not out providing full training to departments yet, but getting one-on-one with the sergeants and supervisors so they can disseminate that information to their road patrols after we get things inspected.”

Doty said he has not yet been contacted to inspect Strawberry Fields.

“They’ll coordinate with us, and we’ll try and get them on our calendar when they’re ready,” he noted.


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