Battle of the buds: meet Cincinnati’s would-be medical marijuana cultivators

by Robin Ann Morris on

Ohio’s fledgling medical marijuana industry is starting to feel the heat this summer as over 180 applicants compete for just 24 cultivation licenses throughout the state.

With plans for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program to be fully operational by Sept. 8, 2018, at least six cultivation licensing applicants have a Cincinnati connection:

Blu Script – represented by former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, plans to operate in Cincinnati.

Hemma LLC –  owned by Elizabeth Van Dulman, founder of Modster, a Cincinnati startup, plans to operate in Ohio.

Ohio Valley Responsible Cultivators – owned by Jennifer de Marco and Jordan Aversam of Fabulous Ferments at Findlay Market, plans to operate in Ohio.

Nature’s Apex –  owned by Bob Bonder and Bryant Goulding of Rhinegeist, plans to operate in Camp Washington.

PalliaTech Ohio – represented by Becky Dekeuster, co-founder of the largest dispensary in New England, plans to operate in Cincinnati.

Riveria Creek Holdings – part-owned by Chris Stock, a Cincinnati lawyer who helped draft the Issue 3 medical marijuana ballot initiative in 2015, plans to operate in Youngstown.

Cultivators involved with Issue 3

Stock isn’t the only applicant with past involvement in Ohio’s Issue 3 initiative:

Cincinnati financier James Gould and Columbus political operative Ian James, who led efforts to pass Issue 3, formed the company CannaAscend and have already contracted for land in Wilmington.

John Bastos, a representative for cultivation applicant Northwest Logistics, is the brother of Cincinnati developer David Bastos, another Issue 3 backer.

Opponents of Issue 3, such as Blu Script representative Borges, also have applied for a cultivators license.

Ditching the dirt

If awarded a license, Stock said Riveria Creek Holdings will dispense with one common element of cannabis cultivation: dirt.

Aeroponic growth chambers are the only way to ensure consistent patient outcomes, said Stock, who is looking to become Riveria Creek Holdings chief compliance officer.

Instead of traditional grow houses lined with pots of soil, Stock’s facilities in Youngstown would consist of airtight chambers designed to deliver nutrients directly to the plants’ roots.

“It’s not as simple as ‘let’s throw a seed in the ground and watch it grow,” Stock said. “There’s an opportunity here to find the best way to help these patients.”

From beer to pot

Another Cincinnati contender is Rhinegeist co-founders Bob Bonder and Bryant Goulding’s newest venture in the Camp Washington area, Nature’s Apex. They expect to employ at least 200 people throughout its cultivation, processing and dispensary facilities Bonder told the Enquirer.

Overseeing operations at Rhinegeist has taught the beer brewing duo how to meet the standards of a highly regulated industry, just as they would with medical marijuana, Bonder said.

Van Dulman, De Marco, Aversam and Dekeuster did not respond to requests for comment.

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Written by: Robin Ann Morris

Founder & CEO at MaryJane Agency, LLC

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