A lawyer at a Rootstown meeting recently described the new regulations on medical marijuana as "The Wild West."
Here in Portage County, three would-be cultivators of the plant are hoping the state will put a quarter of its limited permits right here.
Cultivation facilities have been proposed in three townships in Portage -- Ravenna, Rootstown and Nelson.
The Ravenna Township and Rootstown proposals are both for smaller, "level 2" permits. The Rootstown applicant is proposing strictly a cultivation facility, while the Ravenna Township applicant is proposing a facility that would have both cultivation and processing.
The applicant in Nelson is proposing a 25,000-square-foot cultivation and processing facility at a former turkey farm -- large enough to qualify for Level 1 status.
Jim Ickes, an attorney for Secure Cultivation, said his clients received the go-ahead from Rootstown's Board of Zoning Appeals last week, and the group will apply for one of the permits soon.
The group, Ickes said, likes the fact that the site is not in a heavily populated area, but is instead in an area "where things are typically grown." The property is already surrounded by a fence, adding to the security.
He suspects that many applicants prefer townships because of lower taxes, since many of them are not eligible for federal tax breaks.
The Secure Cultivation group consists of three businessmen. One partner owns the former Wickes Lumber on Tallmadge Road, where the Rootstown indoor growing facility is proposed. Another partner is Ravenna chiropractor Dr. Phil Accordino.
"This is a naturally growing plant that has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes," Accordino said. "Many of the drugs on the market today come from plants and herbs."
Accordino said CBD oil, a substance that has almost no THC, is already legal in Ohio to treat some disorders. The stronger form of medical cannabis can help with more serious disorders, such as cancer or multiple sclerosis. A group in Colorado uses the oil to treat life-threatening seizure disorders in children.
Accordino said he started researching medical marijuana because he has always advocated natural treatments in his practice.
"I'm an old guy, I never use it," he said. "But 80,000 people in the U.S. died of alcohol-related diseases last year. No one has ever died of an overdose of marijuana. No one."
The Rootstown facility would not sell its product to the public directly, instead sending it to processing plants or dispensaries.
Tom Hobson, a Geauga County businessman, has proposed a 10,000-square-foot building in Ravenna Township for a cultivation and processing facility which would be operated by his daughter, Claire.
Ravenna Township trustees expressed support for the project when Hobson first approached them in March, then Zoning Inspector Jim DiPaola said the township's zoning commission approved the proposal for the 4000 block of Lake Rockwell Road.
A Portage County businessman who owns the former turkey farm in Nelson has gained preliminary approval for a 25,000-square-foot processing and cultivation plant there, Trustee Joe Leonard said. The owner doesn't want his name attached to the proposal, and he plans to put it into the name of a family member.
Both Claire Hobson and the owner of the Nelson farm talked to trustees in Freedom Township before taking their plans elsewhere.
In September, Trustee John Zizka said, trustees approved a resolution "prohibiting medical marijuana cultivation, processing and retail dispensaries" in Freedom. The resolution cities the need to protect the "health, safety and welfare" of township residents.
Leonard said Nelson trustees are only too happy to have the plant in their township, and hope it comes to pass. He said the property is one of the largest in the township, and the facility proposed seems like a natural fit.
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