State Auditor Questions Ohio Medical Marijuana Program

Level II Cultivator License Awarded to East Palestine Operation

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A company seeking to develop a Level II medical marijuana cultivation operation in Columbiana County was awarded a provisional license Thursday after winning its appeal before the Ohio Department of Commerce.

The Department of Commerce announced that Pure OH LLC, which wants to build on a site in East Palestine, should have been awarded more points during the initial scoring process, which resulted in 12 Level II licenses and 12 Level I licenses awarded to medical marijuana cultivators in November.

Pure OH was not issued a provisional license then because it did not receive the minimum qualifying score on the security portion of its application.

During the appeals hearing, the company demonstrated that its application includes provisions in the security section that should have yielded more points, but didn’t, the Department of Commerce said. The additional points gave Pure OH a qualifying score and enough to secure a Level II license.

“The appeals process is to make sure applicants have a fair say in what is a competitive program,” said Stephanie Gostomski, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Commerce. “These appeals give applicants the right to say they disagree with the findings.”

In this case, there were points related to Pure OH’s security transportation plan that the hearing officer agreed should have been counted.

“The hearing officer felt that they proved in the hearing that they had the criteria,” she said. “Our director agreed and issued the license.”

Gostomski said 67 appeals are pending before the department. “We had an applicant pool of 185, both large and small, and we’ve issued 26 licenses.”

According to its application, Pure OH wants to develop a medical marijuana cultivation site in a building at the corner of state Route 46 and Kemple Drive.

Level II licenses were awarded to growers with a smaller cultivation footprint than the larger Level I certificates. Level II sites are permitted to harvest up to 3,000 square feet with the option to expand to 6,000 square feet.

The company is the second cultivator to be awarded a provisional license to grow medical marijuana in the three-county region consisting of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

Riviera Creek is renovating a vacant industrial building on Crescent Street in Youngstown’s Riverbend district into a high-tech medical marijuana cultivation center. The company was awarded a Level I license in November, which allows cultivators up to 25,000 square feet of growing space and the option to expand to 75,000 square feet. The operation could employ nearly 300 people should Riviera be successful in its bid for a processor license.

Licenses for processors and testing labs have not yet been awarded.

The state has given these operations nine months to complete their facilities from the date they were awarded the license, although the state has pushed back its September 8 deadline for these facilities to begin production.

Pure OH is the second license awarded beyond the state’s initial limit of 24, and is first company to secure a license by challenging its score through the appeals process, Gostomski said.

Appeals were placed on hold earlier this year because the agency discovered a scoring error that led to 10 companies receiving incorrect scores. A Franklin County court ruled that Commerce failed to give rejected applicants due process and awarded a hearing for Level I applicant Ohio Releaf LLC, which was subsequently issued a provisional license.

Last month, the state awarded provisional licenses to three local companies to distribute medical marijuana: Quest Wellness LLC in Youngstown, Green Leaf Medical of Ohio LLC in Warren and Farmaceuticalrx LLC in East Liverpool.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.