A company that will grow cannabis for use in Utah’s new medical marijuana program has cleared the last local hurdle to begin construction of a new facility in Box Elder County.
Ohio-based Standard Wellness was approved for a conditional-use building permit by the Corinne Planning and Zoning Commission at the commission’s most recent meeting, giving the official go-ahead for construction of the medical marijuana growing facility in the city’s Ag/Business Park.
Scott Ericson, representative for Standard Wellness, said the facility will use temporary “pods” for growing and processing the plant until the final buildings are constructed. Security of the temporary pods will be the same as with the long-term project, Ericson assured the commission.
Architectural and construction personnel will be the same as have been involved in previous projects in other states, although the company hopes to use local subcontractors as well.
During a recent Corinne City Council meeting, Mayor Brett Merkley described his visit to the Standard Wellness facility in Ohio as “impressive” and favorable. The smell was negligible, the security tight. Merkley’s conclusion was that the Corinne facility will have no cause for neighborhood alarm.
Regarding utilities, Merkley said the cannabis facility will use less water than the standard home. State regulations are tight and will be followed in the operation of the buildings, he said.
“We are lucky Corinne was chosen for this facility,” he said.
The Utah Department of Agriculture announced in July that eight growers out of more than 80 applicants had been chosen to supply cannabis for the state’s first medical marijuana program.
Two of those eight facilities are planned for Box Elder County, including the Standard Wellness operation in Corinne. The state has not yet announced the location of the second Box Elder County facility.
The new state law allows for up to 10 growers, but officials awarded only eight licenses, citing concerns about a potential oversupply of product.
Six of the companies that were not chosen filed appeals shortly after the decision, claiming the state granted licenses to unqualified cultivators and had inappropriate interactions with applicants, among other claims. The state dismissed those initial appeals, but three of those companies have since renewed their objections and are awaiting a decision.
Utah joined 33 states to legalize medical marijuana after voters approved a new law last year.
State lawmakers crafted sweeping changes to the ballot measure shortly before Election Day under a compromise that secured the influential support of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and marijuana advocates. The deal drew backlash from other advocacy groups like TRUCE and the Epilepsy Association of Utah.
It bans many marijuana edibles, prevents people from growing marijuana if they live far from a dispensary and makes fewer medical conditions eligible for treatment with cannabis.
On Aug. 6, the Utah Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the legislature-approved law that replaced the voter-approved law.
The court dismissed the petition by The People’s Right group that argued the governor and the state Legislature acted unconstitutionally when they replaced the medical marijuana ballot initiative with the more restrictive law.
The new law calls for local health departments to act as dispensaries of medical marijuana, but Utah legislators recently began moving to scrap the planned state-run dispensary system after county attorneys said it would put public employees at risk of being prosecuted under federal drug laws. Marijuana, including for medical use, remains illegal at the federal level.
Under the revised Utah plan being written by Republican Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, medical cannabis would instead be distributed through as many as 12 private dispensaries.
Last week, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called a special legislative session to get rid of the plan for a state-run dispensary system. Herbert said in a statement he wants to make sure the program rolls out on time in March 2020, and removing the requirement would make it more efficient. The special session will be Sept. 16.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.