Youngstown eager to go to ‘pot’ as source of medical marijuana

On the side

The 224 Corridor Democratic Club is having its “Public Servants Serving Pasta” fundraiser from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Anthony’s Society Hall, 100 Lowellville Road in Struthers.

Several local and Mahoning County elected officials will serve pasta at the event. Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased at the door. Also, carry-out is available.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and Glenn Thompson of Howard Township, Pa., R-5th, have introduced the Veterans Wellness Act of 2017 that would bring mental healthcare to veterans by establishing a two-year grant program to provide those programs at Veterans Service Organizations.

“This grant funding will support integrative wellness programs, including yoga and meditation, which help tackle anxiety, and ease PTSD symptoms,” Ryan said.

Medical marijuana is coming to Ohio and it’s big business.

How big? I listened to five groups present proposals earlier this week to grow medical marijuana just in the city of Youngstown and three of them mentioned $10 million in terms of their investments as if it was nothing.

The state will probably announce in September – though it could take a little longer – the 24 groups that will get cultivation licenses to grow medical marijuana.

Of those 24, half will be for Level 1 growers for up to 25,000 square feet of growing space with the potential expansion of up to 75,000 square feet, and 12 Level 2 growers for up to 3,000 square feet of space for marijuana to potentially expand to 6,000 square feet.

If Youngstown alone has four groups interested in Level 1 licenses and one group wanting a Level 2 license, imagine how many groups will seek permission to grow when the state accepts applications.

Pennsylvania received more than 500 applications for medical-marijuana growing and dispensing operations in April, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Level 1 groups must submit applications to the state by June 30, while the Level 2 groups have until June 16.

The state will evaluate each of the applications on a point system with information that identifies the groups concealed from those making the decisions to make sure it’s a fair process.

Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally said the city has as much of a chance of getting a license as any other community.

With only 12 Level 1 licenses being awarded, the reality is the city’s chances of landing one of them is probably unlikely.

One Youngstown official privately told me while the state is touting the process as objective, the heavily Democratic city stands a good chance of being shut out.

Even if you take politics out of the equation, getting a marijuana cultivation facility in Youngstown is an uphill battle.

Medical marijuana will be made available to purchase by those with 21 different medical conditions by September 2018.

Each group applying for a Level 1 application must give a $20,000 nonrefundable application fee and pay a $180,000 license fee if approved. The fees are significantly less for Level 2 applications – a $2,000 application fee and an $18,000 license fee.

There also would be a $200,000 annual fee for Level 1 cultivators and $20,000 a year for Level 2.

The Level 1 licensing fee is among the highest for cultivation facilities among the nation’s 28 medical marijuana states, according to The Plain Dealer.

State law requires the facilities be indoor and secured by fencing and round-the-clock surveillance and security.

The marijuana wouldn’t be smoked. Instead, it would be turned into oils, patches, edibles or could be vaped.

Any new business would be a benefit to Youngstown, which has seen financial struggles over the years.

If the city was to somehow land a cultivation facility, it would help with income and business-profit taxes.

Also, most of the applicants who presented to the city said they would give additional money to Youngstown if their facilities were to get a license.

It certainly isn’t going to solve all of the city’s financial problems. But it sure isn’t going to hurt it.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican candidate for governor in 2018, isn’t a fan of medical marijuana as an economic driver for the state.

During his Wednesday visit to Youngstown, he was asked about it.

“I’m engaged in trying to create manufacturing jobs, technology jobs,” he said. “I think those are the jobs that create growth and opportunity. While I understand there are people who would like to sell the benefits of marijuana dispensaries, we’d all be better off if the drivers of our economy” were manufacturing, technology and agriculture.

To be fair to medical marijuana, it fits into all three of those categories.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.