Lights shine on marijuana plants at the Livwell Enlightened Health cultivation facility in Denver. LivWell operates one of the largest such indoor marijuana operations in the country. (Denver Post file)

Ohio selects 12 large-scale marijuana growers, but they won’t be easy to spot

"As you drive by, you won't necessarily know these are grow facilities," a spokeswoman said about the indoor-only operations that won't be traditional greenhouses

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The tiny village of Mount Orab and the city of Akron are among diverse locations of the 12 large growers Ohio picked Thursday to participate in its medical marijuana program.

In announcing the large cultivators and a final small grower, the state rounded out the list of 24 companies authorized to produce medicinal crops under a new system expected to go live by September.

Hours after Ohio’s Department of Commerce announced the marijuana grower license recipients, an unsuccessful applicant rejected the state’s decision and said it planned to challenge the selection process.

“Our legal experts have uncovered several fatal flaws, and more are expected to be uncovered,” CannAscend CEO Jimmy Gould said in a statement. He plans to discuss his concerns at a Friday press conference.

Ohio is the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. The state’s cultivator program drew over a hundred applications from investors who found Ohio attractive because they believe it’s learned the lessons of other states, from federal raids on Montana cultivators to harsh restrictions in Illinois that hampered patient access and curbed demand.

Large growers paid $20,000 to apply to operate sites up to 25,000 square feet. Initial license fees were $180,000 and renewals will cost $200,000 annually. Winning applicants plan to build their facilities across the state, from the tiny Appalachian village of Mount Orab to the tire manufacturing hub of Akron in industrial northeast Ohio.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski said all of the sites will be indoor, high-security, regulated businesses — not outdoor farms or even the type of traditional greenhouses that Ohioans might envision.

“As you drive by, you won’t necessarily know these are grow facilities,” she said.

The companies have nine months to get their businesses operational, and a state team must visit their facilities before they get a certificate that allows them to grow, she said.

Some local governments have instituted moratoriums on growing or dispensing medical marijuana, but the department isn’t aware of any such conflicts with the locations for the selected smaller growers. One of the businesses, Harvest Grows LLC, submitted applications for two locations — one in Hamilton Township in Lawrence County, and one in Cleveland. It will have 10 days to pick between the two.

Ohio’s medical marijuana law, passed last year, allows people with medical conditions such as cancer and epilepsy to buy and use marijuana if a doctor recommends it. It doesn’t allow smoking.

The state has offered the maximum number of licenses that it was allowed.

Ohio accepted 185 total applications, which are evaluated based on their plans for business, operations, quality assurance, security and finances. The final small grower chosen Thursday was Farkas Farms LLC in Grafton, Lorain County.

Among the other selections, the top-scoring applicant was Buckeye Relief LLC, of Eastlake in Lake County. The other large growers chosen are:

• Grow Ohio Pharmaceuticals LLC in Newton Township, Muskingum County
• OPC Cultivation LLC in Huron, Erie County
• Riviera Creek Holdings LLC in Youngstown
• Pure Ohio Wellness LLC in Springfield
• Columbia Care OH LLC in Mount Orab, Brown County
• Terradiol Ohio LLC in Canton
• AT-CPC of Ohio LLC in Akron
• Standard Wellness Company LLC in Gibsonburg, Sandusky County
• Cresco Labs Ohio LLC in Yellow Springs
• Parma Wellness Center LLC in Parma
• Harvest Grows LLC