Marijuana Company Granted License to Grow in Oberlin

The Ohio Department of Commerce approved a license last Friday for Ascension BioMedical LLC, a medical marijuana company, to build a facility in the Oberlin Industrial Park. The approval makes it one of the few cities in Ohio — and the only in Lorain County — to grow medical marijuana.

City Councilmember Kelley Singleton has advocated for medical marijuana growers to settle in Oberlin since this spring, arguing that the medicinal marijuana industry would bring economic benefits.

“I think it’s a great victory for the city of Oberlin,” Singleton said. “This will provide some good paying jobs and some much-needed tax revenue.”

Fadi Boumitri, the owner of Ascension Biomedical, said he chose Oberlin as the site of his new business because of how open and welcoming the town is. Boumitri is an attorney living in Cuyahoga County.

“A lot of cities around Ohio were not very receptive to the idea of having any type of medical marijuana business,” Boumitri said. “We reached out to Oberlin, and they were very helpful — much more so than any of the other cities we dealt with.”

The state has the ability to grant up to 12 companies Level II licenses and 12 companies Level I licenses. The Level I licenses will be announced in the near future. Ascension BioMedical was awarded a Level II license — which allows companies to grow up to 3,000 square feet of medicinal marijuana. The Level I companies can grow up to 25,000 square feet of the plant.

According to Boumitri, the company is in the process of securing a lease in the Oberlin Industrial Park. Per town zoning regulations, the park is the only place in town where medical marijuana businesses are permitted.

Although medical marijuana was legalized throughout Ohio in June 2016, the program has been slow to get off the ground. The state did not issue its first round of growing licenses until last Friday and has not yet granted any Level I licenses or any dispensary licenses. Until a dispensary is given a license, medical marijuana will not be accessible to patients.

Multiple cities in Ohio have banned marijuana production or distribution due to safety concerns and because marijuana — although now legal in many states — is still considered an illegal substance by the federal government. On Monday night, for instance, City Council in Strongsville, Ohio, unanimously passed legislation outlawing the growing, processing, and distributing of medical marijuana in town.

Some Oberlin residents have also expressed hesitation over introducing the industry to town. Mark Cooley, who owns Main Street Barber, said he approves of legalizing medical marijuana and allowing companies to grow it in Oberlin but is worried it might lead to a slippery slope.

“The way I look at it, everything is incremental,” Cooley said. “I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined by recreational marijuana.”

By and large, however, Oberlin has welcomed the medical marijuana industry with open arms.

Oberlin City Council unanimously passed a resolution in May to allow for medical marijuana growth in the city, and the Oberlin City Planning Commission approved zoning changes to the park to support the possibility of future marijuana facilities in April.

Associate Professor of Politics and Oberlin resident Michael Parkin said he is in support of allowing Ascension Biomedical and other medical marijuana businesses into Oberlin. He said he believes that the product has the potential to improve the health of many people.

“It’s my sense that these things are heavily regulated and that any concerns about safety or criminality are pretty minor,” Parkin said. “It benefits a lot of people who could use the benefits.”

Singleton envisions the benefits of the construction of the facility differently. He said he thinks it will be a moneymaker and questions why other towns in Ohio were hesitant to take advantage of the added tax revenue and creation of new jobs.

“It’s a state law,” Singleton said. “Why not capitalize on it?”