By Noell Wolfgram Evans
On June 10 the Pleasant Township Fire Department hosted an, at times, heated meeting of the Pleasant Township Board of Trustees as a town hall was held regarding the desire of some residents to build a medical marijuana growing facility in the township.
This was the second meeting in less than a week concerning the Lambert Drive home of the former Ehmann & Son’s greenhouses and farm.
Current owners, including Lori Fry, are completing an application that would, if approved, award them a license “to establish and operate a medical cannabis cultivation operation.”
Ohio recently joined a growing number of states to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The state will issue just 24 licenses that would allow holders to grow marijuana for this purpose.
Fry and her group are in the process of completing their application for a level two license, the lowest level license type that will be available. Winning a license is just the first hurdle in the process.
Communities in the state are able to establish a moratorium on growing marijuana, even if a grower had a state-issued license in hand. Currently, Pleasant Township has no moratorium.
The town halls had been requested by Fry and her consultant team as a way to educate and solicit feedback from the community regarding their application pursuit.
Many in attendance were against the proposal for a variety of reasons.
Some cited a concern over the impact a “marijuana farm” would have on their property values.
Consultant Shawnta Hopkins-Greene, who is working with Fry, cited a number of studies.
“In communities where this has been set up, property values have been positively affected,” she said.” Particularly in small communities.”
She cited several studies, that she promised to share on their website, to back up her claim.
Many were concerned over the look of what the potential 3,000-foot growing space would be like.
Hopkins-Greene reiterated that that was one of the reasons Fry and her team felt multiple community meetings were important.
“Our plan is not set in stone,” Hopkins-Greene said. “There are some things that are mandated that we have to have. For example, we have to have a fence, but the state doesn’t say what kind so we’re willing to work with you within the structure of the law.”
Fry’s team is estimating that this facility would employ 20 to 25 employees and generate $2.5 dollars in its first year of operation.
Fry said, “We want to take some of that revenue and put it into bringing back the remaining areas of the farm.”
The longest, and most passionate, discussions of the meeting centered around an argument of old versus new. Many in attendance, preferred to see the farm returned to its older glory, something that Fry said was not economically feasible.
One resident also shared his support with a quick history of the area.
“We’ve had steer on Lambert, they’re gone. We had bison on Lambert, they’re gone. You can’t stay the same and survive,” he said.
Others argue that the community is residential and that is not the proper place to grow medical marijuana.
Fry cited a study from the Cato Institute stating that growing areas of this planned size “had no material effect on crime.” Even with that, the team does plan a full complement of security protocols and systems, some mandated by the state and others to satisfy the concerns of residents.
Fry and her team will continue working on their application with the intent of submitting it by the June 16 deadline.
The Pleasant Township trustees will continue to weigh both sides of the issue as they decide whether or not a moratorium should be issued.
Fry has set up a website to share information as they work through the process and, in turn, decide the future of the farm. The site is https://lambertrdcultivationinfo.wordpress.com.