Just Weeks Before Program Launches, City And Businesses Hope For Medical Marijuana "Campus"

Sep 1, 2016
Originally published on August 26, 2016 11:45 am

Some Ohio communities are already considering opting out of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries and facilities already opting out of hosting dispensaries before the plan is even implemented. But one Ohio community is rolling out the red carpet for the new medical marijuana industry.

In a warehouse, in Johnstown, about 20 miles northeast of Columbus, employees of Apeks Supercritical manufacture extraction machines that  can be used to take oils out of plants such as lavender or eucalyptus.

But Andy Joseph, the president and owner of the five year old company, says there’s another plant that’s become popular in recent years – medical marijuana. And as Ohio moves forward with its medical marijuana program, Joseph is focused on growing his business.

“We really have two opportunities. One is going to be to continue to sell the equipment that we manufacture that does the botanical oil extractions. We also see the opportunity to now become a processor.  And the processor side means we are basically going to take the cultivated material from different cultivation facilities and then turn that into extracted oil products that can ultimately be wholesale or be turned into end products like the oils, the tinctures, the balms, the lotions, the different infused products.”

Joseph has 26 employees right now. They are making the machines there but he has a couple of employees out in Denver, where marijuana is legal for personal and medical use, selling and servicing the equipment. But the Ohio State University engineering graduate hopes to expand his business as Ohio implements its medical marijuana program.

“The big picture goal is to create the Johnstown Medical Marijuana campus.”

Joseph says the idea of a business campus is not unique but a central location for the medical marijuana industry would be unique. He says putting businesses that cultivate, develop, and process medical marijuana together in one place makes dollars and cents but also makes sense when it comes to security.

“You minimize a lot of the transportation risks that would exist if these cultivation facilities are some distance away from the processing facilities which are also some distance away from the testing lab. Putting all of those facilities in one particular location make a lot of sense not only from the business synergies that get created but also from a transportation risk and security risk mitigation standpoint.”

Jim Lenner, the Village Manager in Johnstown, shares the vision of the medical marijuana campus. His village recently passed a resolution promising not to opt out of the medical marijuana plan. Lenner says the village is rolling out the red carpet for the medical marijuana industry for one big reason – economic development.

“I believe we are the first community to do this in Ohio. I’ve looked at other communities across the United States that have been the first to adopt such an approach and they’ve been very successful in their economic development strategy to embrace medical marijuana, control it, regulate it the way they want it to be and reap the benefits of that.”

Lenner is hoping the village’s welcoming attitude will result in a lot of new jobs and new tax revenues by giving businesses the promise of stability from the local government. The Executive Director of the trade industry that represents marijuana related businesses says Johnstown’s welcome attitude will be attractive to marijuana related businesses that are facing unknown challenges. Brian Wright says it is an exciting time and the potential growth in this new industry in Ohio is enormous. His 250 member Ohio Cannabis Association has been holding workshops throughout the state, trying to help its members establish marijuana related businesses.

“I think right now the biggest challenge they are facing is uncertainty. You know when you are talking about laying out your business plans, you want to plan around something that is concrete, that you know is going to be there and right now we are in this very fluid area where we know rules are going to be made through next year. And I’m telling them to get your pieces in place but to be sure they are scalable, that you understand the nature of this, don’t lock yourself into a real estate transaction that may have to shift later on.”

There’s no doubt a lot can happen in a year and a half. But someday, Joseph is hoping the field outside Apeks Supercritical will turn out to be the field of his dreams.

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