Medical marijuana dispensary to open in Marietta soon

Photo by Janelle Patterson Strawberry Fields, the medical marijuana dispensary at the corner of Greene Street and the Williamstown Bridge, is expected to open in early June.

MARIETTA — Access to medical marijuana in Southeast Ohio is near, following more than two years of legislation, rules and renovations.

Marietta City Law Director Paul Bertram confirmed Tuesday that the Marietta dispensary named Strawberry Fields, which has been under structural modification for the last year at the corner of Greene Street and the Williamstown Bridge ramp, has plans to open next month.

“They called and had indicated they would be opening in the first 10 days of June,” said Bertram. “They would still need final inspections and licensing through the state board of pharmacy, medical marijuana board and Department of Commerce.”

Ian James, head of corporate development for CannAscend, the operational partner with the dispensary, and Jimmy Gould, founder and CEO, did not return calls for comment Monday or Tuesday.

Medical Marijuana was legalized in 2016 after Ohio House Bill 523 passed. The first legal sales of the controlled substance did not occur until January this year, and that was the last time the issue again came before Marietta City Council’s Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee.

Photo by Janelle Patterson Strawberry Fields, the medical marijuana dispensary at the corner of Greene Street and the Williamstown Bridge, is expected to open in early June.

That committee, under the 2016-17 council, enacted a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana-associated businesses from operating within city limits while the legislature and state administration ironed out rules concerning the previously illegal products.

Then in October 2017 council lifted the moratorium to encourage businesses to set up shop when Washington County was in the running along with Noble and Guernsey counties for the one dispensary to be allowed within District 8. Other nearby counties, namely Athens, Morgan and Monroe, are in different districts designated to disperse access across the state to the medical product.

According to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, the dispensary districts were created after considering the following:

* Established rules and regulations in other state medical marijuana programs.

* Patient populations.

* Consultation with regulators in other states.

* Ohio’s population.

* Existing compliance resources for the state board of pharmacy.

* Access to major Ohio roadways.

In June last year, Marietta was selected to be the home of the District 8 dispensary following the awarding of provisional dispensary licenses by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

Now, Bertram and Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee Chairman Geoff Schenkel are looking to the next phases of medical marijuana regulation and the potential for more dispensary licenses anticipated from the state in the coming years.

“The dispensary on Greene is approved, and I saw a security equipment firm going in after the handicap ramp was put in,” said Bertram. “But I believe the legislature gave enough local control to set up zoning restrictions and guidance for where these can be set up… I think this is a trial basis (for the board) and then they’ll take feedback and release more licenses. We would be remiss if we did not have a proactive discussion about zoning now.”

Schenkel said he intends to schedule for next week a PZAH meeting at council’s regular business meeting Thursday.

“Our world is always changing, so I think (council member) Cindy (Oxender) is wise to have pointed us in the way of buffers between locations,” noted Schenkel.

Current state law prohibits any medical marijuana facility, including manufacturing and dispensing, from being located within 500 feet of real estate where schools, churches, public libraries, public playgrounds and public parks exist.

In January council began the discussion to also limit facilities from operating anywhere but C-3 commercial zones as an added restriction.

“Paul is working to ensure that concept is applied properly,” added Schenkel. “And then we can review in committee and move on to council for a vote.”

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