Ohio Approves Two Marijuana Farms

The state of Ohio has approved two small-scale marijuana farms in Akron. But there's a chance the city will host only one.

Each operator must come back to the city and the state for a second round of approval before planting can begin sometime before next summer.

The Ohio Department of Commerce, which is handling state permits related to the medical marijuana industry, awarded Galenas LLC and Fire Rock Ltd. the right to grow cannabis in Akron. The companies were the first in line to apply under the city's new regulatory rules for the budding medical marijuana business.

That Akron laid out local rules and didn't ban the industry, as other Ohio cities and towns have done.

"We looked at a lot of different communities and potential sites across norther Ohio and we got plenty of pushback in other areas," said Geoff Korff, a Hudson attorney, president of a manufacturing company in Salem and the owner of Fire Rock. "Akron didn't [push back]. They had a structure and regulatory system in place to make sure we're doing everything we're supposed to."

Korff pitched his comprehensive plan to City Council a couple months ago, detailing everything from the fencing and security to distribution plans to a structure that he said would withstand the force of a truck used as a battering ram. Galenas will move forward with hiring local workers, something some on City Council made prospective operators promise, to begin construction on the $1.1 million facility at 1956 S. Main St.

"We're certainly going to hire a local [construction] firm to do the work," Korff said. "We have a couple in mind, which we're going to talk to on Monday."

With Ohio's full medical marijuana program up and running by Sept. 8, 2018, Korff said he's on a tight deadline to get the concrete poured before winter for the foundation of his two-tiered grow operation, which boasts a "zero-waste" sustainability model.

The state will be back after the building is done in the early spring to lift the provisional permit and decide whether to grant a full operational license. Korff said if all goes as planned, the first seeds will germinate in May in time for a harvest next fall.

"If we get the operational license by May, that would give us plenty of lead time to get to harvest by September when we know patients are going to be eager to get in the door of one of these dispensaries."

Matt Noyes, the CEO and owner of Massillon-based Fire Rock Ltd., did not answer a Saturday phone call seeking comment on his successful application or plans to begin growing. The company submitted two other successful applications. City officials are hearing that the company may have to choose one site among the three listed in Akron, Columbus or Canton.

According to the conditional zoning request Fire Rock filed with the Akron City Planning Department and Planning Commission, which both -- along with Council -- gave approval, the company would erect a $400,000, 16,470-square-foot, one-story building at 1076 Home Ave. in Chapel Hill. Inside, the state has now given the green light to grow up to 9,000 square feet of marijuana, pending a site inspection of the operation next year.

Elsewhere in Northeast Ohio, the Ohio Department of Commerce approved future grow sites in Ravenna, Canton and Oberlin.

In all, 76 operators had applied to be the first to grow medical marijuana in Ohio. The 11 selected will operate smaller (Level II) farmers. The state is expected to award provisional licenses to another dozen or so larger farms (Level I) later this month.

Korff said he didn't expect the application process to be so tough. Each applicant was scored. He thought his company, with elaborately detailed plans for on-site composting and a steel barrier and double fence and a 360-degree surveillance cameras, would have risen to the top of the stack of applicants.

"It was definitely more competitive than we thought," Korff said. "We came in at the end [or the bottom]. We were the second to last to get a license according to the scoring, and we thought we would be at the top."

The full list of the state's first round of approved growers include Fire Rock Ltd. for proposed sites in Columbus, Canton, Akron; Galenas LLC in Akron; FN Group Holdings LLC in Ravenna; Mother Grows Best LLC in Canton; Ascension BioMedical LLC in Oberlin; OhiGrow LLC in Toledo; Ancient Roots LLC in Wilmington; Ohio Clean Leaf LLC in Dayton; Ohio Clean Leaf LLC in Carroll (Fairfield County); Agri-Med Ohio LLC in Langsville (Meigs County); Paragon Development Group LLC in Huber Heights (Montgomery County); and Hemma LLC in Monroe (Butler County).

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___ (c)2017 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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