An inside look at a cultivator's plans for medical marijuana in Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio —
Ohio should have its first harvest of medical marijuana by the end of the summer.
What has been an 18-month process is now coming to fruition for one cultivator who plans to build a grow site in Akron. It’s a long time coming for people who want medical marijuana for pain relief.
We all have daily rituals and one for Michelle Fox is for pain relief.
“It actually hurts to put clothes on. It hurts to wash my hair,” said Fox.
Her regiment involves a lot of prescription pills. She says she takes 18 pills a day after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005.
“I had like a tingling numbness in my feet,” said Fox.
It was a devastating blow for this mother and grandmother who lives in Newark.
“I went downhill pretty quick,” said Fox.
Simple things many may take for granted are tough for Fox. She says lifting her arm is a struggle.
“I know that’s not much to some people but that’s a big deal for me to have that freedom to be able to take my shirt off on my own,” said Fox.
Ohio’s medical marijuana program will be up and running by early September. People with certain medical conditions should be able to buy weed from a dispensary, and Fox says she would be a candidate.
“If you give me a choice, yeah, I’d rather have something natural,” said Fox.
One cultivator is close to breaking ground. An empty lot in Akron will turn into a $1.1 million modern greenhouse.
“When the market finally came to Ohio, I made the decision we were going to get involved in it,” said Geoff Korff.
Medical marijuana wasn’t always in Korff’s life plan. His background is in steel manufacturing. In 2010, he became an advocate for pot in Ohio for pain relief.
“If we have the opportunity to get people off opioids and using something that’s going to result in fewer side effects and better health outcomes that is an absolute enormous win. We’re going to be saving lives getting into this market,” said Korff.
Ohio law allows up to 24 licensed cultivators. Korff says the application process was complicated.
“We had to create an operations plan, quality assurance, security, the list goes on and on. We essentially had to have a business exist on paper prior to knowing whether or not we were going to have a business for real,” said Korff.
He’s allowed to build a 3,000-square foot facility. After a long vetting process and talks with other Ohio cities, Korff settled on the rubber city.
“Akron kind of opened their arms to this industry and wanted to attract these businesses,” said Korff.
The grow sites must be indoors and highly secure. He says he visited other states with similar programs to put together his vision. Korff showed renderings of what his greenhouse and office space would look like.
“There’s going to be doors you’re going to have to have a card to get through. There’s going to be lots of layers of security to be sure we’re running a tight ship,” said Korff. “The things that were most attractive to me when seeing the other operations in other states was the ability to make these facilities very green and very energy efficient."
Korff wants to be a good neighbor and good to the environment.
“We’ve incorporated solar panels into our facility. We’re going to be doing rainwater harvesting. We have a greenhouse, so we’re going to be making as much use of natural sunlight as we can,” said Korff.
He also has room to expand the grow site.
“They may authorize up to tripling the cultivation space in the state, but it’s going to be the decision the department of commerce has to make at some point within the next two or three years,” said Korff.
The medical marijuana program is what Fox lobbied for in Ohio. She says she knows how pot makes her feel.
“I finally broke down and I did try it and it helped well. Later on, I tried the edibles. I’m a firm believer in the edibles. It makes a big difference for me,” said Fox.
Michelle says her daily cocktail would be nowhere near what it is now.
“I would go from 18 pills a day to two pills a day,” said Fox.
Doctors can’t prescribe marijuana. They must be certified by the state to recommend it for a patient. Michelle says that is one big hurdle in her quest for pain relief.
“I have spoken with my own doctors at this point. None of them will commit,” said Fox.
She may have to consult a new doctor.
“It’s like starting ground zero with all my symptoms, everything and it’s not easy. So it scares me,” said Fox.
What also scares Michelle is a life without being able to enjoy what matters to her most.
“I want to be there for my kids and I have six grandkids now for only being 44, but I want to be around,” said Fox.
Korff has also applied for a processing and dispensary license.
The State Commerce Department is reviewing the medical marijuana processing applications. The State Board of Pharmacy is reviewing dispensary 376 applications that were submitted.
Korff says they are still in the permitting process in Akron but are still planning to break ground at the end of February. Korff says if he did get one a processing license, it would be on the same site in Akron.