Medical marijuana offers prospect of jobs in Valley

When the state of Ohio goes through the process of selecting the 24 growers who will cultivate cannabis for medicinal uses, the selectors will not know the identities of the applicants. The state wants to ensure there is no pressure, political or otherwise, in the granting of permits.

That’s how it should be, given the very lucrative nature of this flourishing industry nationwide.

In 2016, legal marijuana sales – for medicinal and recreational purposes – topped $6.7 billion, a 24 percent increase over 2015.

There are 26 states that allow the use of cannabis. Ohio joined the list in 2016 when Republican Gov. John R. Kasich signed into law a bill passed by the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

With the deadline in Ohio to apply for cultivation permits a month away, the number of potential applicants could be in the hundreds.

In Pennsylvania last month, more than 500 applications were received for permits for new medical-marijuana-growing and -dispensing operations, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

While the state of Ohio is utilizing a “blind application” process to select the 24 growers, many of the applicants are publicly acknowledging their interest.

As a result, The Vindicator last week revealed that at least six groups want to establish marijuana-growing facilities in Youngstown. Mahoning Valley residents were creators of three of the six. We say “at least” because it’s quite possible that others will emerge before the June deadline for applications.

There are two levels of growers, with 12 permits being issued for each one.

Level 1 growers will cultivate up to 25,000 square feet of cannabis, with a possibility of expanding to 75,000 square feet of growing space.

There is a nonrefundable application fee of $20,000 and a $180,000 license fee if the applicant is successful. Each year, the grower will have to pay a $200,000 fee to the state.

The application deadline is June 20.

Level 2

Level 2 growers will cultivate up to 3,000 square feet.

The nonrefundable application fee is $2,000, while the license fee is $18,000. The annual fee would be $20,000.

The application deadline is June 6.

Principals of five of the six groups listed by The Vindicator in a story Wednesday will appear Monday before Youngstown City Council. They are expected to provide city government officials and the public with details of their business plans and other pertinent information.

Lawmakers will not take any formal action with regard to the applicants, but we would urge them to consider a resolution that unequivocally supports the establishment of marijuana cultivation sites in Youngstown.

There are communities in this region that have closed their doors to cannabis-growing operations, but the jobs to be created make the case for Youngstown to roll out the welcome mat.

The administration of Mayor John A. McNally has revealed that there are financial storm clouds on the horizon. The general fund budget could have a shortfall of more than $1 million unless spending cuts are made or additional revenue found.

According to the state law that was approved in 2016, medical marijuana for individuals with any of 21 specific medical conditions must be available by September 2018.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, once approved, applicants must rapidly build indoor growing facilities with lighting, heating, cooling and security systems. Processing facilities must be approved and built to turn the raw marijuana into an oil, tincture, edible, patch or plant material that can be vaped, but not smoked.

The marijuana products will be tested and sent to any of 60 dispensaries across the state.

While we encourage the establishment of cultivation sites in Youngstown, we would be remiss if we did not issue this warning: Beware the drug gangs in the city that have turned neighborhoods into war zones, and organized-crime types who will attempt to infiltrate the legitimate businesses.

While the cultivation sites will have round-the-clock security, the Youngstown Police Department and other law enforcement agencies have a role to play in keeping unsavory characters away from this legal industry.

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