AKRON, Ohio --The city's zoning commission gave its approval on Friday to two groups intending to cultivate medical marijuana in the city of Akron after city council earlier gave its approval to five others.
The State of Ohio has accepted more than 180 applications from across the state from people who want to grow medical marijuana in Ohio; that's as of the application deadline last Friday. Only 24 of them will ultimately be approved.
None of them will be able to do anything without the blessing of local lawmakers first.
Among those presenting their plans to Akron's Zoning Commission members on Friday was Tallmadge contractor Joe Scaccio who has assembled a team involving a security expert, a master grower, an attorney to make sure the plans are in compliance with state and local regulations, and other consultants.
Scaccio is prepared to spend $15 million to build a brand new state of the art cultivation facility near the Akron Fulton Airport, in an area that borders residential neighborhoods but meets all of the regulations for where the facilities need to be located relative to churches, parks and schools.
If he gets his license, Scaccio intends for his facility to produce 30-thousand pounds of medical marijuana every year.
"It took me a while to understand it all fully, but now that I do, I think it's a good thing; I think it will help a lot of people that need help," Scaccio told Fox 8.
"We are really talking about medicine here at this point, and at this level we are not growing marijuana for recreational use. That's not legal; it's not even what we are talking about," he added.
Different members of his team addressed committee questions on Friday including consultant Timothy Madden and security consultant Timothy Dimoff.
"Our intention is to make medicine available to the patients who need it and that's our only intention, and the reason we are here today is there has been hundreds of families that have had to move out of the state of Ohio to get access to the medicine they need even for their children," said Madden.
"We will be able to know if anything comes near that facility way before they can even get near the fence or over the fence or over a wall or break in a door, plus there will be backup alarm sensors, backup cameras, dual cameras," said Dimoff, a former narcotics detective with Akron police.
Dimoff says three years ago he was opposed to medical marijuana but after studying it in detail he strongly believes it may not only help some patients but it may also ease problems with opioid addiction that are plaguing the state.
Also applying for the zoning committee approval on Friday was Massillon doctor, Mat Noyes, an orthopedic surgeon whose company Fire Rick Ltd. has managed a cultivation center in California for the past four years.
"I do think there is a benefit in certain medical conditions even more so. I just think that medical marijuana is an alternative for people to treat some of their ailments instead of using opioids and that's been the big problem in the state of Ohio," said Noyes.
Noyes is planning to convert an existing building on Home Avenue into a smaller cultivation operation.
"We are a small batch company, so we produce flowers that are kind of specific to patients' needs and produce certain types of strains as well," he told Fox 8.
Both proposals got the permission of the zoning committee, but will still need the approval of city council.
The vote on Friday was not unanimous. Zoning committee member Renee Green was the lone objection.
"I am currently a member of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board and through our findings we are not completely convinced of the use of medical marijuana; marijuana itself is a gateway drug and we have not come to the consensus that is something we welcome in the community," said Green.
The process to become one of the 24 applicants who will ultimately be selected by the state is a competition.
Scaccio says it will be based on the merit of their plans and when those plans are judged there will be no names attached to them to try and eliminate any favoritism.
Those who will ultimately get licenses are those who best address all of the requirements, show that they are financially sound, and have plans to address community needs and concerns as well.
The state has set early September to have a functioning program for production, sale and consumption of medical marijuana.