Four medical marijuana grow sites didn't initially comply with 500-foot rule

COLUMBUS, Ohio — State regulators did not check whether applicants to grow medical marijuana had the required cash, chose a grow site that complied with Ohio law or met other pass-fail criteria outlined in the application, raising questions about the fairness of the application scoring process.

But the Department of Commerce says it didn’t have to verify applicants’ claims because the provisional license winners have nine months to fully comply with all state laws, rules and regulations for the medical marijuana program.

A cleveland.com investigation found four provisional cultivator license winners were not technically in compliance with Ohio law barring marijuana businesses from locating within 500 feet of a church, school, playground, library or other prohibited location when they submitted applications in June 2017. Since then, each has carved out a property that meets the requirement from the larger properties identified in their applications. 

Application reviewers checked whether applicants submitted a map demonstrating the proposed site’s distance from prohibited facilities but did not check whether the map was accurate.  

“All applicants that received a provisional license passed this section of the application, based on the information and certification of compliance with the 500-foot rule,” spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski said. “To receive a certificate of operation, each provisional licensee will have to comply with all statutory and rule requirements, which the department will verify.” 

Gostomski confirmed the department also did not check applicants’ claims to have sufficient liquid assets or economically disadvantaged status as a minority, which caused two applicants to receive licenses instead of higher-scoring companies.  

The department issued 12 small-scale grow licenses Nov. 4 and 12 large-scale grow licenses Nov. 30. The provisional license holders have nine months to meet all the obligations of the law, according to department rules, including the 500-foot-buffer. 

But unsuccessful applicants contacted by

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