The plants are still small — about two or three inches tall — but a state-approved medical marijuana cultivation company announced it is on its way to providing one of the first crops of legal cannabis in Ohio.
The Ohio Department of Commerce awarded a certificate of operation to Grow Ohio Pharmaceuticals, in Muskingum County’s Newton Township, on Sept. 10. The company said it has plants in 20 small flowering rooms.
Since Ohio weather isn’t as mild as places such as California or Mexico, the farm is all indoors. It is not using greenhouses, either, and must rely on lights to initiate photosynthesis. It uses a unique form of energy – generated from food, oils and even sewer sludge – from a nearby Quasar Energy biogas plant.
The company expects to have flower available for patients in February, said Caroline Henry, the company’s vice president of communications.
A series of hitches and delays has resulted in Ohio’s medical marijuana program not meeting the Sept. 8 deadline to be fully operational.
The flowers, or bud, in marijuana comes from the female plants, so the first part of Grow Ohio’s operation involves planting seeds and weeding out the ones with male characteristics, said Josh Febus, who oversees sales.
The company is growing different marijuana strains.
“Each strain has different ratios and different chemical makeup,” Febus said. “They have different advantages to them.”
Once the company gets the final OK from the state to begin processing – it has a provisional processing license in addition to its provisional a large-scale cultivation license – it can make oils, edibles and other products with the THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The products will contain different strains that are mixed together to create formulations that the company believes could be helpful to patients who have any of the 21 conditions that could qualify them for legally possessing the drug.
The company hired a scientist to run its lab who has a background in biomedical engineering. He is studying nascent research out of Israel, which has had a medical marijuana program for years and some research on the effectiveness of different formulations.
The facility was purposely located in Muskingum County to have close access to power from Quasar Energy’s biogas facility, Henry said.
“Energy consumption is the largest cost for a cultivation facility,” she said.
Grow Ohio is using high-pressure sodium lights.
Quasar Energy has oils, greases, food and sewer sludge in a series of tanks. Microorganisms break down the organic waste in an anaerobic process that creates biogas. Quasar Energy generates electricity from the biogas, Henry said.