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Medical marijuana dispensaries ready to open locally

DISPENSARY — Local businessman Mike Petrella stands in front of what will become the Ohio Valley Natural Relief LLC medical marijuana dispensary, 840 Canton Road, Wintersville. The dispensary will be one of two located in the village. -- Amy Neeley

WINTERSVILLE — The Ohio Board of Pharmacy has approved two applications for medical marijuana dispensaries to be opened in the area, both in Wintersville.

Only 56 of 370 applications for the facilities were approved by the board, according to officials. The board was permitted to approve up to 60 dispensaries. The state was broken into regions, with each being awarded a set number of licenses.

“There were to be two dispensaries awarded in the Southeast Region 9, which consists of four counties, Jefferson, Harrison, Belmont and Monroe,” said village Mayor Bob Gale. “I was very surprised that Wintersville was going to have one of those and shocked we received both. What I have found is that only four applied in the region and three of those came from sites in Wintersville and one came from Belmont County. However, the two in Wintersville scored higher and thus received the licenses.”

The local licenses were awarded to Cresco Labs Ohio LLC and Ohio Valley Natural Relief LLC. OVNR is owned by local businessman Mike Petrella. Charles Bachtell is the chief executive officer of Cresco Labs, the website of the Chicago-based company shows.

OVNR will be coming to 840 Canton Road, next to the Gas Lite Restaurant, and Cresco Labs plans to open its business at 180 Main St., the site of the former Lancelot’s restaurant.

State law prohibits dispensaries from being located within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground, public park or community addiction services provider.

The two local dispensaries are expected to open later this year, according to officials.

Gale said some residents might be concerned about the businesses, but he thinks people will change their minds as time passes.

“These new business meet state and local laws, and like any legal business, they are welcomed into the village. I know some have concerns and, hopefully, over time their concerns will be diminished. They will be dispensing legalized medical marijuana via prescription only. They will not be selling marijuana that can be smoked, and it’s still illegal to smoke or grow marijuana. We will work to make sure this business and any other business in this village are safe and obey all village ordinances,” he said.

According to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program website established by the state, the following forms of medical marijuana are permitted: Oils, tinctures, plant material, edibles and patches. The law prohibits the use of medical marijuana by smoking or combustion, but does allow for vaporization.

Ohio medical marijuana cards will only be available to residents of the state.

The law creating Ohio’s MMCP lists 21 conditions qualifying someone to obtain medical marijuana. They include AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury and ulcerative colitis.

Residents can petition the state to accept other medical conditions or methods of using marijuana starting in November.

Petrella believes residents will come to appreciate the new businesses.

“OVNR is a locally owned and operated business,” he said. “We live here and are committed to doing what is best for the citizens of this area. OVNR will be a good community partner and work with local charities, health care providers and patients. Our company will be a veteran-friendly business, focused on serving our patients’ needs, employing local residents and boosting the local economy.”

Petrella noted the new business venture is personal for him. Two years ago, his father, who was allergic to many narcotics and suffered serious side-effects from others, was fighting cancer.

“I watched the pain and suffering my father went through during his battle with Stage 4 cancer. That experience inspired me to pursue this license and to find alternative methods to help provide relief for those suffering with chronic illness and pain. We look forward to establishing our dispensary in Jefferson County to serve the needs of the community and complying with state laws and regulations,” he said.

He plans to make education about medical marijuana a large part of his business, as he believes there are a lot of misconceptions out there.

“I really want to educate the community about what it is,” he said. “It’s not just people walking in.”

Gale said he believes the new businesses will boost the economy in the village.

“Wintersville is in a great place and time where you will see many changes to existing buildings and new additional business that will benefit Wintersville and our local economy. These dispensaries are just the tip of the iceberg of multi-million dollars of investments coming to enhance our business community and our economy while providing vital resources for our residents and the surrounding communities. There will be more to come in the health care services, bringing many jobs and specialized services,” he said.

“I think all the new business coming to Wintersville and the infrastructure improvements to some of our current building properties will provide more patrons to our current business, and I’m hoping with that we can see some further business such as family-style restaurants locate into our community, since there will be an influx of traffic coming through the village that will benefit all of our current and new businesses on the horizon.”

The other applicants included Hill Botanicals LLC, also known as One, owned by Jonathan Yoder in Jefferson County, and Ohio Valley Med Can owned by Ron Naylor in Belmont County.

Applicants had to pay an application fee of $5,000 and must pay the state a $70,000 operational fee every two years.

Petrella stated the process was not an easy one.

He had to hire a legal team, establish a board of directors, include business and security plans as well as complete the extensive application.

After meeting the basic criteria, applicants were scored on their business plan, operations plan and patient care plan.

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