State Awards Licenses to 13 Firms Across Ohio; Many Politically Connected

By John Corrigan


(COLUMBUS) The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program has come out with its long-awaited awards of licenses for the privilege to dispense medical marijuana to Ohioans beginning in September of 2018. Hours into the announcement, legal action is already being threatened against the State over the awards.

The awards can be found here.

These firms now have to publicly identify where they plan to locate their facilities and begin the process of putting together a business operation within the state.  

3rd Rail Politics chronicled the process that has led to this decision.  The Commission ranked all 183 applicants based on a perfect score of 200 in rank order.

Next to the firms listed below, are the principles listed as agents of each awardee company.

Of note was that Blu Script, LLC, represented by lobbyist and former ORP Chairman Matt Borges did not earn a license based on their score. However, Cresco Labs, represented by several prominent Kasich Administration and Republican players including Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf, did earn a license.  The score of license applicants who did not earn licenses, is currently unavailable from the Commission.  

An investor in the Cleveland Cavaliers and other sports teams, Big Game Capital, represented by Andy Rayburn’s Buckeye Relief, LLC earned the state’s top score. Buckeye Relief is represented in Columbus by Rich Hillis, a close personal friend of Governor Kasich.

Grow Ohio is represented by Mel Kurtz of Independence, Ohio.  Kurtz is CEO of Quasar Energy. He is an active political fundraiser, who has hosted events for Republican politicians including Governor Kasich and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) among others.

Attorney Chris Stock’s Riviera Creek Holdings, was awarded a license. He was appointed by Ohio House Speaker Rosenberger to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Task Force.

Columbia Care, another recipient based in Brown County, was represented at the Statehouse by Bridget McAuliffe and David Paragas. McAuliffe is the wife of Matthew McAuliffe, Governor John R. Kasich’s trusted legislative affairs director.  McAuliffe was rumored to be involved with the Medical Marijuana application process from afar.

Steve Dimon, a registered legislative agent, is listed as the principle contact for Cuyahoga County recipient Parma Wellness Center. The business incorporation does not list the true owner of the awardee.

The process was touted as “double blind” by Kasich Administration Officials who claimed to be sensitive to the fact that so many people close to the Administration had applied for licensure.

Already, one of the non-awardees, CanAscend Ohio, led by medical marijuana pioneer James Gold has threatened legal action . Gould was one of the leaders behind the failed 2015 ballot initiative that lost 65% to 35% that would have legalized marijuana in Ohio. Backers planned to amend the State Constitution in 2016 with a medical marijuana provision, which prompted Kasich and Legislative Leaders to hurriedly pass into law its own version of medical marijuana, that is part of current statute.  All marijuana sales and distribution remain illegal under Federal law.

What follows are the awardees, where they are allowed to conduct business, as well as the publicly listed contact person for each firm:


Score - 179.28 Buckeye Relief LLC (Eastlake, Lake County) Andy Rayburn

Score - 173.44 Grow Ohio Pharmaceuticals LLC (Newton Township, Muskingum County) Mel Kurtz

Score - 173.28 OPC Cultivation LLC (Huron, Erie County) Jeff McCourt

Score - 172.72 Riviera Creek Holdings LLC (Youngstown, Mahoning County) Chris Stock

Score - 167.64 Pure Ohio Wellness LLC (Springfield, Clark County) Larry Pegram

Score - 167.08 Columbia Care OH LLC (Mt. Orab, Brown County) Nick Vita

Score - 165.48 Terradiol Ohio LLC (Canton, Stark County) John Vavala

Score - 161.28 Standard Wellness Company LLC (Gibsonburg, Sandusky County) Erik Vaughn

Score - 161.28 AT-CPC of Ohio LLC (Akron, Summit County) Lauren Payne

Score - 159.80 Cresco Labs Ohio LLC (Yellow Springs, Greene County) Charles Bachtell

Score - 153.08 Parma Wellness Center LLC (Parma, Cuyahoga County) Steve Dimon

Score - 142.04 Harvest Grows LLC (Hamilton Township, Lawrence County)

Score - 142.04 Harvest Grows LLC (Cleveland, Cuyahoga County) Matthew DiDonato

The next step is that each awardee has up to 10 days to identify the location that they would like to conduct business operations from. Those details were not identified in the application process to assure anonymity.