If not for one tray of plants that stands just a few inches tall, you might not realize that Grow Ohio Cultivation Manager Nick Cline is growing marijuana at all. The building he does it in shows how the company has gone to great lengths to keep it as clean as possible.
Hallways in Grow Ohio have walls that allow workers to easily clean the facility to create the best possible environment for their plants.
"We're really limited with how we can deal with pests so we have to be extra careful from the start," said Cline.
State regulations don't allow Cline to use the pesticides that more traditional farmers can use to keep bugs away. The materials he does put on the plants are tested in a lab within the facility to try to get the most out of each plant.
Plants will fill these trays eventually, once Grow Ohio grows more product. They planted their first seeds in the middle of September.
Part of that testing results in 36 different formulas being fed to the variety of strands that Grow Ohio is developing.
"These formulas are constantly going under [research and development]," said Cline. "They're constantly changing. A milliliter here, a milliliter there as we figure out what's going to get us the biggest, best plants."
The bigger the plants, the more valuable they are, meaning the state's eye is never far away.
The first marijuana plants are barely a few inches tall and already have metric tags, tracking them from "seed to sale."
"You can see on every single one of these plants, they're tagged with what's called a metric tag," said Cline.
The tags keep track of each plant's individual identity all the way through each step of Ohio's medical marijuana process.
- Cultivation -- growing the plants
- Processors -- turning the plant into medicine
- Lab testing -- making sure the plants and products are properly grown and labeled
- Dispensaries -- sale to patients
The Ohio Department of Commerce is also able to access a facility's security cameras 24/7 to see what's happening in any given facility for themselves.
"We need to demonstrate and validate to the folks that have concerns that they shouldn't have those concerns," said Grow Ohio General Manager Anthony Cieslak.
Grow Ohio's facility is on the property of an old concrete plant in Zanesville, Ohio.
Cieslak says proving medical marijuana's legitimacy is part of ending the stigma around it. Regardless of public opinion, or state laws, the federal government considers all marijuana to be illegal, making most banks and credit unions hesitant to work with any business within the industry.
Cieslak says one of the company's next challenges is figuring out how Grow Ohio will work with a bank once they start selling products to processors.
Cieslak said one challenge is "just the stigma that goes with this business; people don't want to touch it even if you are just a development company building a facility."
Construction workers pour concrete inside a security fence as part of Grow Ohio's plans to expand the area where they can grow marijuana to meet Ohio's medical needs.
Grow Ohio has plans to expand their facility with three other additions to increase how much marijuana they can grow. That expansion has already been approved by the state and is scheduled to be finished by 2019.