Loudonville, Ohio OK’s Medical Marijuana Site

LOUDONVILLE – Loudonville residents have mostly had positive reactions to village council’s support of a Cleveland-based company’s possible state application to build a medical marijuana growing facility in the village’s industrial park, Mayor Stephen Stricklen said this week.

Council voted unanimously Feb. 27 in support of a state application by BZGIST, LLC (doing business as Glasshouse Farma) to produce medical marijuana in village limits.

The Mohican Area Growth Foundation met earlier this month, also endorsing having the company operate in southern Ashland County. And two Ashland County commissioners, Mike Welch and Denny Bittle, along with other area leaders have written letters expressing their support, local officials said.

The chain of positive reactions in the southern Ashland County village appears to contrast with what happened in Richland County, when Ontario council — which asked for public feedback before it made a decision whether to support a potential growing facility within its city limits — heard  mixed reactions.

While a number of Ontario area residents saw economic development potential, council was presented with a letter from 70 pastors (many from outside the city) who opposed a growing operation. Several area police chiefs also lined up against having a medical marijuana growing operation in Richland County.

Glasshouse Farma is likely to make a decision on whether to commit to Loudonville as a potential site in its state application for a cultivator’s license “within the next week or so,” Mohican Area Growth Foundation Executive Director Kathy Goon said this week.

Both the mayor and MAGF official said they were uncertain whether Loudonville currently is in direct competition with other communities as a potential medical marijuana growing site.“They did say that we were being considered (as a site),” Stricklen said.

“We are just working with the company to make sure that their comfort level (for choosing Loudonville) is good,” Goon said.

Two Glasshouse Farma representatives had met privately with “a number of decision makers” from Ashland County, including officials from Loudonville and Perrysville, prior to council’s vote.

Loudonville council’s resolution emphasized local officials wishes for increased economic development “and to encourage safe and legal businesses to locate in the village and benefit from the unique location, resources and potential employees offered by our community.”

“All six council members voted to pass the resolution,” the mayor said.

Glasshouse Farma must deliver over 1,000 pages of application-related documents to the state by April or May, and the success of its application will depend on factors including community support and the company’s plan, including details outlining steps to provide security for the facility, Goon said.

BZGIST was formed as an Ohio corporation in early 2016. It registered its intention to do business as Glasshouse Farma, providing greenhouse services, and giving a business address of 1481 Lindazzo Ave., in downtown Cleveland, on Feb. 1 of this year.

Ohio Department of Commerce spokesperson Kerry Francis said a deadline for final applications for cultivator licenses has not yet been set.

Francis had no immediate information on whether Glasshouse Farma has told the state agency what locations it is considering applying for growing licenses for.

“Community support from Loudonville has been very good,” with no one identified as strongly opposing a growing facility in the village’s industrial park, which is physically located in Holmes County, Goon said.

While Loudonville officials have heard “a little bit from both” sides — pro and con — from local residents, “once the product is explained, most people support it,” Stricklen said.

Glasshouse Farma described an operation that would create 30 jobs, “from white collar jobs all the way up to botanists and scientists,” Stricklen said.

But the mayor added he primarily supports getting a growing facility up and running locally because he believes medical marijuana is medically useful.

“The product is a pharmaceutical product that helps a lot of people. I’ve seen some of that first-hand,” the mayor said.

The proposed facility would be a pharmaceutical business producing drugs for people with 21 medical conditions including Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

And it would be a production facility, not involved in direct retail sales to individuals seeking to use it, Stricklen added.

It matters to residents that the business would produce medical marijuana, Goon said. “If it was recreational, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Ohio will issue 12 licenses for larger facilities with up to 15,000 square feet of growing space, and six more licenses for operations up to 1,600 square feet. The Ohio Department of Commerce and Ohio Board of Pharmacy jointly oversee new regulations for medical marijuana.

Officials in some areas of north central Ohio have lined up officially against allowing marijuana growing facilities in their region:

That includes Washington Township, which approved a resolution in September — the same month medical marijuana became legal in Ohio — prohibiting marijuana cultivators, processors or retailer dispensaries from operating within its borders.

Township trustee Bob Entenmann said the township officials voted proactively to discourage a type of business local officials did not want in operation there.

lmartz@gannett.com
419-521-7229
Twitter: @MNJmartz

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