Breakthrough Busts Ohio Marijuana Monopoly Claims

   

Tomorrow at 2pm at the Ohio Statehouse, advocates for medical marijuana research will be announcing their plans to build a $24 million research center in the state of Ohio if Issue 3 should pass in the 2015 election. Speaking at the event will be Dr. Sue Sisley, MD, Principal Investigator for the only FDA-approved randomized controlled trial looking at use of whole-plant marijuana (grown by NIDA) in combat veterans with treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), who will perform her research in Ohio at ICI’s future research facility.

The drive to legalize marijuana in Ohio in 2015, ResponsibleOhio’s Issue 3, has been attacked for its most controversial section, the designation of just ten approved sites for commercial marijuana cultivation. This has led opponents and even the State of Ohio to designate the plan an Ohio marijuana monopoly; though, technically, a market controlled by a small number of wealthy beneficiaries is more properly called an “oligopoly”. Nevertheless, the idea that all commercial growing would be controlled by ten wealthy interests written into the constitution has even some die-hard supporters of legalization rejecting Ohio’s first-ever marijuana legalization measure.

Now there’s word that the “monopoly” fear promulgated by those who wish to maintain prohibition tickets and arrests at least another year is an intentional misreading of the amendment. The growing of marijuana commercially is not tied to ten licensees – it is tied to ten locations – and that difference is crucial.

Garrett Greenlee represents the International Cannabinoid Institute. Greenlee tells Marijuana Politics that Ohio was chosen by the ICI for its proposed research facility from among all the states with existing or pending legislation for medical or recreational marijuana. “My prediction is Ohio will become the most competitive and highest performing state in the Union – and around the world – as the structure gives opportunities for safety and free market solutions, including advanced research like ours.”

ICI

The breakthrough backing Greenlee’s optimism comes from looking past the “monopoly” claims he believes are quite mistaken. “The notion that the organizers of the ResponsibleOhio initiative are greedy opportunists seeking to create their own monopoly is just plain wrong. It’s totally false. Anyone can lease from the landowners who have been granted the right through their property – just read the amendment’s language.”

The language of the amendment says (emphasis mine):

The growth and cultivation of marijuana and medical marijuana, and the extraction of cannabinoids from marijuana and medical marijuana, for sale and medical use within this state shall be lawful only at licensed MGCE facilities. Subject to the exceptions set forth herein, there shall be only ten MGCE facilities, which shall operate on the following real properties:

The amendment goes on to list the ten initial facilities, already owned by the investors in Issue 3, as the:

  1. 40.44 acre area in Butler County;
  2. 13.434 acre area in Clermont County;
  3. 24.948 acre area in Delaware County;
  4. 19.117 acre area in Franklin County;
  5. 24.466 acre area in Hamilton County;
  6. 35.031 acre area in Licking County;
  7. 76.83 acre area in Lorain County;
  8. 28.459 acre area in Lucas County;
  9. 27.18 acre area in Stark County;
  10. 29.0052 acre area in Summit County.

Now, that tells us there are indeed just ten “facilities”. But when we look at the definitions in the amendment, we find this (emphasis mine):

“Marijuana Growth, Cultivation and Extraction Facility” or “MGCE facility” means one or more structures in which, or the real property on which, the growth, cultivation, harvesting, processing, packaging, preparation, and labeling of all marijuana and medical marijuana available for sale or medical use within the state, and the extraction of cannabinoids from marijuana plants for use in marijuana-infused products or medical marijuana-infused products available for sale or medical use within the state, is lawful.

And remember that the initial ten facilities were “subject to the exceptions set forth herein”, which include:

No local zoning, land use laws, agricultural regulations, subdivision regulations or similar provisions or governmental consents and approvals applicable to creating transferrable legal descriptions, or to any subsequent assignment of different parcel numbers to the aforesaid real properties shall prohibit the creation of transferrable and recordable legal descriptions or separate tax parcel numbers for any of the aforesaid real properties.

In other words, the owners of the lands that constitute the facilities may subdivide that land to lessees like the International Cannabinoid Institute. Plus, the guarantee that local governments could not interfere with the constitutionally-protected facilities through zoning or land use laws makes Ohio very attractive to scientists who require years of uninterrupted research on cannabis.

The total acreage of the facilities runs about 13.9 million square feet. In Washington, the largest grows are 30,000 square feet; in Colorado, the largest grows are 10,200 plants. How the owners of the facilities decide to parcel their land is unknowable; however, even the smallest facility in Clermont County works out to 585,185 square feet, which could house 19 of Washington’s largest grows, while Lorain County is 3,346,714 square feet, or 111 Tier III Washington grows.

What seems more reasonable – that a land owner with no experience in cannabis cultivation is going to jump right in to a half-million-to-three-million square foot grow, or that a land owner would subdivide his land to lease to a bunch of growers who’ll guarantee him steady lease payments whether or not the crops fail?

By Greenlee’s estimation, it’s the latter. “We met with landowners and offered to lease their properties, just as any farmer might do with a landowner. These Ohioans have been very receptive to our concept, and we’re now in the final stages of site selection.” On The Russ Belville Show, Greenlee said, “I think, Russ, there will be over 100 growers in Ohio.”

Russ Belville

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on CannabisRadio.com, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland NORML.in 2015.