Pubdate: Fri, 01 Dec 2017
Source: Blade, The (Toledo, OH)
Copyright: 2017 The Blade
Author: Jim Provance


COLUMBUS - One day after Ohio announced its choices for larger growing
sites that would fuel a fledgling medical marijuana industry, a legal
challenge was announced that could throw a wrench into the works.

Ironically, such a lawsuit would be filed by some of the chief players
behind 2015's failed ResponsibleOhio ballot initiative that would have
legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use.

"Whether we end up with a license or we don't end up with a license,
that's not what this is about..." said Jimmy Gould, chairman and chief
executive of CannAscend Ohio. "I care that this process is broken. I
care that there should have been better oversight over this process,
and I care where this ends up....

"They delayed it so long," he said. "...Unless they've already been
digging into the ground, which is a different issue, how are you going
to dig into frozen ground in January and February and have product in
stores and dispensaries by September of 2018? That's near

He said he suspects that the process was intentionally delayed in
order to push the opening of a medical marijuana market in Ohio beyond
the November, 2018 election, when governor and other statewide offices
are on the ballot.

House Bill 523, the law legalizing medical marijuana, currently
mandates the program be up and running by Sept. 8.

The lawsuit, which Mr. Gould said will be filed soon, seeks to
preserve all records and communications used by the Department of
Commerce in reviewing and scoring more than 100 applications received
for larger-scale cultivator licenses.

On Thursday, the department announced its selection for 11 such
licenses, including one in Gibsonburg. Standard Wellness Co. plans a
growing facility in the village's Clearview Industrial Park.

Standard's application received a score of 161.28 points out of a
potential 200 under the commerce department's process. By comparison,
CannAscend's proposal for Wilmington scored 132.72 points and was
among 73 deemed "disqualified" under the system.

These Level I cultivators may have operations of up to 25,000 square
feet of growing space.

The department had already announced its choice of licensees for 12
smaller cultivators of up to 3,000 square feet. Ohio Grow LLC was
selected for its proposed site at 367 E. State Line Rd., Toledo.

These growing facilities would be the first link in the supply chain
to funnel various strains of cannabis to a laboratory that will test
the product. Processors would then generate oils, patches, vapor, and
other approved forms of the product, and ultimately neighborhood
retail dispensaries would sell it to patients or their caregivers.

Any delay in getting the cultivators in operation at the front end
could risk the state's ability to meet the Sept. 8 deadline.
Cultivators that have received preliminary license approvals are
expected to have their businesses ready for state inspection and final
license approval within nine months, a timeline that would already cut
very close to Sept. 8.

Mary Jane Borden, treasurer of the Ohio Rights Group, said she doesn't
want to see a delay in implementing Ohio's program. Without commenting
on the merits of the lawsuit, she noted there could be opportunities
after the program is operational to expand the number of growing facilities.

"Something that looked impossible 15 to 20 years ago, even five years
ago, is now coming true," she said. "The mere blessing of having a
process to get a license to grow in the state of Ohio is absolutely

"It's tough to tell patients to wait once more," Ms. Borden said.
"We've heard this for decades now.... We're tired of waiting. Let's be
sensitive to the people who really need this medicine."

Among other things, the lawsuit is expected to accuse the department
of treating applicants differently, allowing some to change or update
their applications in mid-process while not offering the same
opportunity to others. It will accuse the department of giving
preliminary approval to applicants who had not fully complied with
financial responsibility and criminal background check

It would ask a court to force an entirely new application process.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt