Warren County expects to OK permit for medical marijuana farm

Warren County expects to issue a permit, perhaps this week, to grow marijuana for medical use in a rural township in the county.

The permit would be used to qualify for one of up to 24 medical marijuana cultivator licenses the Ohio Department of Commerce can issue “prior to” Sept. 9, 2018, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

In June, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a law legalizing marijuana for use by patients with one of 21 conditions, such as cancer, traumatic brain injury or chronic pain. It also allows medical marijuana edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing, but not smoking or home growing, to supply the patients.

RELATED: Ohio to license medical marijuana growers

The law gives state regulators two years to get the entire program up and running.

Up to 12 Level I and Level II permits could be issued.

"Level 1 cultivators are permitted to operate an initial marijuana cultivation area up to 25,000 square feet. Level II cultivators are permitted to operate an initial marijuana cultivation area of 3,000 square feet. Licensees may submit an expansion request pursuant to the cultivator rules" according to the state web site.

Applications are not being accepted yet, according to another email response from the state.

"There are currently no licensed cultivators in the state of Ohio," according to an email response to an inquiry to the state website.

MORE: Businesses lining up for medical marijuana licenses

The cultivator moving to begin growing in Warren County first looked at land in Turtlecreek Twp., but is now expected to set up on land in Harlan Twp., according to Bruce McGary, an assistant county prosecutor who advises the county administration.

The tract covers about 35 acres, but the cultivation was to be done indoors with grow lights, Warren County Zoning Supervisor Mike Yetter, who would issue the permit, said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, during a discussion with the Warren County Board of Commissioners, Yetter said he typically issued permits for agricultural use of land “on the spot.”

In this case, McGary said he would first review this and other applications for the medical marijuana sites.

“It will be a quick process,” McGary said.

In all, Yetter said he had received a half-dozen inquiries by early Wednesday.

Earlier this week, drug agents searched homes in Warren and Montgomery counties as part of a crackdown on illegal grow operations in the area.

MORE: Illegal marijuana grow operation sparks multi-county investigation

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell declined to comment.

County Sheriff Larry Sims and Col. Steve Arrasmith, commander of the county drug task force - which searched a home in Springboro in the illegal marijuana growing investigation- did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Harlan Twp. is in the rural southeastern corner of Warren County, near the border with Clermont County.

The representative for the cultivator, identified as Gary Hadley, could not be reached.

Cities and villages have legal authority to regulate medical marijuana cultivation, but counties do not, McGary said during the discussion.

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Townships can regulate medical marijuana cultivation through the health code, McGary added.

In addition, McGary said townships can regulate this through zoning, if they have local rules, rather than working through the county zoning code.

Other townships relying on county zoning code are Franklin, Turtlecreek, Union and Washington townships.

McGary said he had discussed the issue with Harlan Twp.’s administrator, Andy Mitten, and that the trustees were unopposed by the cultivation.

“I guess if it was going to happen somewhere, it was better for it to happen in a rural area,” McGary said.

“They didn’t have any issue with it.”

Mitten could not be reached Wednesday.

There are other plans for medical marijuana cultivation facilities, including in the Wilmington area in Clinton County.

MORE: Marijuana farm planned in Wilmington

Under county zoning, marijuana cultivation fits the category of agricultural use, McGary said.

This agricultural use is exempt from zoning regulation, he added.

“This will fit in the category as horticulture,” McGary said.“It’s coming.”

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