Ontario’s marijuana industry players make progress in licensing

ONTARIO – As the state’s cannabis regulators reopen applications, a bumper crop of budding entrepreneurs is getting ready to cash in on Ontario’s emerging recreational marijuana industry, some moving forward with building permits. 

As of Monday, Dan Cummings, Ontario’s Community Development director, has approved seven conditional use permits. This comes after Cummings had sent out notices to surrounding businesses about future dispensaries opening nearby. Businesses that received a notice had 12 days to appeal the city’s approval for the pot shop’s location.

“No one filed an appeal,” said Cummings. “In a sense it’s not surprising, because we already had a public hearing process about marijuana businesses coming.”

Cummings said 22 applications have been submitted. However, after considering the order in which they were submitted and whether they fall into a buffer zone, only 12 applications appear to qualify for conditional-use permits.

Cummings said Segreto LLC has obtained a building permit for its location on 591 East Idaho Ave., and Hotbox Farms is getting ready to do so as well. 

That means those businesses are willing to throw in large sums of money to renovate or build a facility, confident that they will pass all the legal barriers to open a marijuana shop.

“Just about every one of them is going to need a building permit,” said Cummings. He noted that several applicants have locations on undeveloped land.

Once a conditional-use permit is issued, Cummings said he prepares a city form that then opens the next phase of regulatory review, this time by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees the state’s recreational marijuana licensing. 

“From our perspective, we don’t move application forward until we have” the completed city form said Mark Pettinger, spokesperson for the OLCC’s recreational marijuana program.

After pushing the pause button on processing new marijuana applications last June, the state’s cannabis czar recently reopened its application process to pot merchants from communities that have recently overturned pot bans, including Ontario. 

Pettinger said that the agency would begin processing applications from Ontario as soon as they come in.

“Oftentimes, the application’s incomplete, or something in the application process gets overlooked,” said Pettinger.

He said a common mistake is that applicants might underestimate the amount of information the OLCC requires. 

“That’s been consistent with licensing altogether usually with folks who might not be as familiar with the process,” said Pettinger.  

Steven Meland, who opened the marijuana retail Hotbox Farms in 2016 in Huntington, agreed. 

He said the hardest part of the license application process was understanding the rules and regulations by the OLCC. 

“Getting an OLCC correction will only delay yourself more,” Meland said. “I’d say to those applying for a license for the first time to go through the requirements with a fine tooth comb.”

Meland said his company passed the OLCC’s first inspection but it took roughly nine months to get a license from the state. 

He said his company is willing to help budding entrepreneurs in the area who might not be familiar with the application process.

“We are actively working to partner up with other operators who might need a hand or need guidance to process their applications,” Meland said. 

That goes for entrepreneurs looking to open an operation other than retail, he said.

“We want to support those people that are doing things besides retail,” Meland said. “As a retailer, we are partners to those in the processing and production side. … If there are people creating products locally, we want to make sure we offer those products to our customers.”

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