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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) – Medicinal marijuana is a multi-billion dollar industry with diseases like cancer and chronic pain fueling its popularity and necessity.

Thirty-six states in the country have approved cannabis for medical use, Ohio being one of them.

Now, long-time Cleveland construction entrepreneur Ariane Kirkpatrick, 56, is the owner of Harvest of Ohio–the first female, minority-led medical marijuana dispensary in the state.

The first of three locations recently opened in Columbus, making a nearly four-year undertaking now a reality. Her license was granted by the state in 2017, but Kirkpatrick says it wasn’t an easy road to success.

“And I remember saying wow, this is gonna be scary. And on December 2, that’s when the first lawsuits came, the first challenges. Who is she? Why did she receive a facility? Why is she in this business. What qualifications does she have?” said Kirkpatrick.

Just two weeks after opening, vandals struck by spray-painting the words “sell-out” and the N-word on the outside of her N. High Street location.

“That’s not going to stop me. It’s not gonna stop me,” she said.

The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy in Columbus licenses and regulates medical marijuana dispensaries. As of today, 56 dispensaries have received a certificate of operation across the state.

“There are certain limitations that are in place. For example, they have to be 500-feet from certain entities, certain other types of businesses,” said Sharon Maerten-Moore, Ohio’s director of medical marijuana operations.

She said during the initial rounds of applications, 15% of the approved licenses were minority-owned.

Currently, Moore says four are black owned. Three of those belong to Kirkpatrick a fourth black-owned dispensary is located in Warren.

FOX 8 asked if there are any kinds of programs in place to allow more minority ownership.

“There was initially a program that was included in the original legislation. It was later struck down by the court. However, what we have done is put into place a new system of awarding the licenses that we believe will be more evenly distributed,” Maerten-Moore said.

Kirkpatrick’s cultivation site or grow house nearby is thriving and Harvest of Ohio locations in Athens and Beaver Creek will open soon.

It has become a family affair with many helping to run and facilitate the operations.

Ariane is aspiring to become one of Ohio’s most respected operators, improving patients’ lives across the state and helping to level the playing field.

“I’m happy to be a black woman in this industry and I’m happy to have a diverse, very diverse workforce. We’re here to stay,” she said.