Canadian firm, powerful Ohio family eye medical pot site nearby

A medical marijuana growing operation could be coming to Amherst Township.

A company called Aphria runs a large cultivation greenhouse in Leamington, Ontario. It’s among the many companies to apply earlier this summer with the state, seeking permission to legally cultivate pot on up to 25,000 square feet of land.

Aphria filed in partnership with the Schottenstein family. Based in Columbus, it runs fashion retailers American Eagle and DSW and is the namesake of Ohio State University’s basketball and concert arena.

In all, 185 companies applied for permits — but only 12 will be approved for large farms and another 12 for smaller ones under Ohio’s new medical marijuana laws.

Each paid a fee of $20,000 to the state.

Companies that get the green light for the larger farms will have to pay a $200,000 licensing fee.

Certain details of the applications have been made public by the Ohio Department of Commerce, but not the proposed sites where pot will be grown.

We followed rumors that Schottenstein Aphria LLC wanted a grow center “near Amherst” and reached out to officials in the city and surrounding townships.

Amherst Township is where the proposed site is located, said trustee Dennis Abraham. He declined to comment further on any specifics while development is pending.

He said the township’s zoning code would allow for medical marijuana cultivation in line with state law. “We as trustees will follow the law,” he said.

State law requires marijuana farming to be conducted at least 500 feet away from schools, churches, libraries, and certain other public areas.

Aphria did not respond to a request for comment.

As a startup, Aphria was licensed by Health Canada in late 2014 to cultivate and sell medical marijuana, and by all indications has done very good business.

The company’s Canadian facility includes 22,000 square feet of growing space under glass greenhouses, part of a 450,000-square-foot facility.

Aphria is already building a 200,000-square-foot expansion that will yield 15,000 kilograms of medical cannabis per year.

Leamington is located almost directly across Lake Erie from Lorain County, a distance of just 49 miles from Amherst as the crow flies.

House Bill 523, which went into effect Sept. 8, 2016, legalizes medical marijuana in Ohio. The state program is scheduled to go operational by September 2018.

The state pharmacy board is still figuring out how to handle and regulate all aspects of medical marijuana agriculture and sales.

If marijuana were grown in Amherst Township, it doesn’t necessarily mean it would be legally sold nearby.

Lorain County has been made part of Northeast District 1 for dispensaries. Only three will be allowed total in Lorain, Medina, Wayne, and Holmes counties, so it could possibly mean a long drive to fill a prescription.

However, Oberlin city council in April discussed wooing a dispensary business.

“This, to me, is an economic development item,” councilman Kelley Singleton said. “There’s opportunities here for job creation, property tax, and sales tax. With other municipalities passing moratoriums, I think it’s important for us to state that we are open to development and to encourage developers to come here and give Oberlin a shot.”

The planning commission voted the same month to allow marijuana sales in a light industrial district on Oberlin’s East Lorain Street.

Attorney Fadi Boumitri was also in attendance and claimed to represent an investment group interested in getting behind medical marijuana in Oberlin.

“The business would not be a pharmacy,” he said. “It would be licensed very similarly to a pharmacy and overseen by the state board of pharmacy. It would have requirements where every person who comes through the door must be put through the Ohio state system to determine what other medications they’re on and how often they seek medication. A pharmacist would not be required to be on staff.”

On a doctor’s recommendation, patients will be able to use marijuana if they have HIV, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and a long list of other ailments. Most involve chronic pain or the nervous system.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

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Medical marijuana is legal in Ohio, and one company is seeking to build a grow operation in Amherst Township. marijuana is legal in Ohio, and one company is seeking to build a grow operation in Amherst Township.

Photo by Bogdan | Creative Commons

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