A medical marijuana dispensary is one step closer to opening in Newark. Verdant Creations, LLC was unanimously approved by the Newark Board of Zoning Appeals for a conditional license to open a medical marijuana dispensary Thursday evening.
Verdant Creations was one of three medical marijuana dispensaries approved for a provisional license by the state to open in Newark. Verdant Creations’ dispensary will be located at 1550 W. Church St.
While the state has already given Verdant Creations a provisional license, a law passed by Newark City Council earlier this year requires all medical marijuana dispensaries that wish to open in the city to come before the zoning appeals board for approval.
Verdant Creations is the first medical marijuana dispensary to come before the board.
Besides the conditional license, Verdant Creations also needed the BZA to grant it a variance.
The state prohibits dispensaries from being located within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground or public park. Newark’s law requires dispensaries to be 1,000 feet from any of those entities as well as addiction services providers.
But the Newark law also included that the BZA could grant variances of up to 250 feet. Meaning a dispensary would still need to be 750 feet from a school, church, public library, public playground or public park.
The West Church Street location is about 780 feet from Par Excellence Academy on Granville Road.
Ted Bibart, a lawyer representing Verdant Creations, said the dispensary will not be open to the general public. Only those with a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana will be allowed into the dispensary. Any doctor’s recommendation has to be approved by the state before a person can purchase any medical marijuana.
“They couldn’t go to a doctor that same day, have them write a written recommendation, show up with a Xerox piece of paper and say ‘I have a written recommendation. Can I get some marijuana?'” he said.
No other products are sold inside the dispensary, Bibart said.
“This is not like a CVS pharmacy where somebody could come in and also do some light grocery shopping or something of that nature,” he said. “All that is dispensed here is medical marijuana.”
The doors will be locked and a person has to have the proper paperwork from the state proving they have a recommendation for medical marijuana to enter.
A person can’t just choose to start taking medical marijuana without a recommendation from one of the state-approved doctors, Bibart said.
The state has created a list of 21 conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. A person has to have one of those conditions to receive a recommendation.
“It is not as if you’re having headaches and you decide yourself that you would like to treat yourself with medical marijuana,” Bibart said. “You have to go through a very rigorous process to even obtain a written recommendation.”
Bibart said the building will look like a doctor’s office.
“There’s no marijuana leaves displayed or neon signs that flash ‘marijuana’s here,'” he said.
Even though the building will look like a doctor’s office, Ohio law prevents a doctor from practicing on site, Bibart said. Patients will have to go elsewhere to see a doctor approved to recommend medical marijuana.
Ohio law also prevents anyone from using medical marijuana onsite at a dispensary, Bibart said.
Verdant Creations has a security plan, Bibart said. Security cameras will be inside and outside the building and security staff will be onsite during operating hours, he said. Security camera footage will be monitored 24 hours a day.
Newark Safety Director Steve Baum said during the meeting he has reviewed Verdant Creations security plans.
Bibart said the state requires dispensaries be open at least 35 hours a week, and Verdant Creations expects to have a maximum of about nine patients an hour come to the facility once the state program is fully up and running.
“There will not be a high traffic of people either in and around the facility,” Bibart said.
The hours the West Church Street dispensary would be open have not been set, but the board of zoning appeals stipulated it can not be open past 9 p.m.
Even though these dispensaries are not allowed by the state to distribute recreational medical marijuana if it were to ever become legal in Ohio, the BZA stipulated that as well.
Because it is adjacent to one residential property, the zoning appeals board is also requiring the dispensary to install a 4-foot mound with trees to separate the two properties.
During the meeting several people raised questions about the number of dispensaries being approved in the city of Newark.
Newark was approved for three dispensaries while larger cities Cincinnati, Dayton and Akron were each only approved for two. Toledo was only approved for one.
After the meeting, Newark City Councilman Mark Fraizer said the city of Newark had no control over the number of dispensaries that were approved to open in Newark.
The state has given out 56 provisional licenses, which were awarded in 28 geographic areas statewide. Three dispensaries were allowed between Morrow, Delaware, Knox and Licking counties.
Businesses had to apply to be a dispensary and a merit-based system was used to select the 56.
Five entities applied for Licking County, and another organization applied for one in Delaware County. The state did not receive any applications for Knox or Morrow counties.
“The state looked at our applicants and they looked at the patient population and they said it made sense to have three in Newark,” Fraizer said.
Fraizer said there is no reason for the city to limit the number of dispensaries from opening.
“I would rather see the free market dictate the profitability of these but also what we’re looking at is patients getting treatment,” he said. “It would be like us limiting pharmacies or doctor’s offices.”