Ohio Cannabis Business Licenses
WHAT IS OHIO'S CURRENT CANNABIS MARKET STATUS?
Cannabis in Ohio has an arduous history marked with mixed policies. The legalization of medical cannabis has been a lengthy process despite Ohio’s progressive policies toward decriminalization of the possession of cannabis. In 2016, the fight for medical cannabis finally prevailed with the passage of the first medical cannabis bill, and the first dispensary sale in 2019. Although Ohio has been slow to participate in the cannabis industry, new laws and legislation show a promising future for the plant in the Buckeye state.
Since Ohio cannabis business operations began in 2019, Ohio's medical cannabis market value has grown significantly and has proven to be fruitful for those who hold a license. With 176,387 registered patients, the state has generated more than $338.3 million in product sales throughout the 52 provisional dispensary licensees that have received a Certificate of Operation as of 3/26/2021.
The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy held a public hearing on March 12, 2021, to make minor rule changes to the application language. The Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee had a meeting on 3/25/21.
On March 22, 2021, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy filed amended program rules with the Common Sense Initiative Office (CSI). Those impacted by the proposed rules may submit comments to CSI and the Board for review until the close of business on April 2, 2021. A Guide to Public Participation in the Rule-Making Process can be found here.
During the commission meeting on March 25, 2021, no release date of the Request for Application (RFA) was mentioned, only that the criteria to be used for evaluating and scoring the application will be sent out in the RFA. The Commission is considering the potential implementation of a lottery mixed with a competitive application process. The application process will be virtually the same, the only difference being that all qualified/winning applicants that meet or exceed the application requirements set forth during the competitive application round will be placed into a lottery pool and that licenses will be awarded from that pool. This is not final as the Commission is just working through it. The next Commission meeting will be held in June of 2021. The Commission will post a notice on their website once the meeting date has been finalized.
WHAT ARE OHIO'S CANNABIS LAWS?
In 2016, Ohio legalized medical cannabis when Governor John Kasich officially signed House Bill 523 into law. The bill outlined a process for setting up a complex and functional cannabis system consisting of cultivation facilities, testing laboratories, patient registration, retail locations, and other crucial operations. The plan was to have this system ready by September 2018, which would be regulated by the Ohio Department of Commerce. In the meantime, patients with qualifying conditions, such as AIDS, Parkinson's, PTSD, and other chronic or terminal illnesses, were allowed to transport medical cannabis from Michigan into Ohio. As of 2019, smoking cannabis and selling smokable cannabis products are illegal. However, edibles, tinctures, and other non-smoking cannabis products are permitted for retail sale and consumption.
WHAT IS OHIO'S CANNABIS LICENSING TIMELINE & CANNABIS APPLICATION PROCESS?
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy issued 57 medical cannabis dispensary licenses throughout the state, with a limit of 60 awards to dispensaries. Currently, 52 dispensaries are operational. The state is divided into 31 counties, and each county may only have a limited number of dispensaries. Applicants may have a maximum of five licenses and 66% of the dispensaries in a county.
Currently, Ohio is not accepting applications for medical cannabis dispensaries, although lawmakers are in the early stages of implementing another round of licenses in the near future. During the Board of Pharmacy’s meetings on February 01, 2021, and February 02, 2021, March 22, 2021, and March 25, 2021, requests for applications were on the agenda, signaling a new application round may be on the horizon in Ohio. The Advisory Committee last met on March 25, 2021, but no release date of the RFA was mentioned. The next Advisory Committee meeting will be held in June 2021.
Check back with Point7 for future active updates of the outcomes of Advisory Committee meetings!
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF CANNABIS IN OHIO?
Ohio was one of six states to decriminalize cannabis possession up to 100 grams in 1975, labeling the offense as a minor misdemeanor resulting in a $150 fine rather than jail time. After many years of cannabis being illegal yet decriminalized, the legalization of cannabis was presented on the state ballot in 2015. The measure, Issue 3, was aimed to legalize the use and sale of cannabis; allow commercial cultivation of cannabis; allow possession of cannabis up to one ounce of commercial cannabis, and allow home cultivation of cannabis up to four plants. Issue 3 was endorsed by celebrities, such as NSYNC’s Nick Lachey, Cincinnati Royals, and Milwaukee Bucks player, Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Bengals player, Frostee Rucker, and fashion designer, Nanette Lepore. Issue 3 ultimately failed because it was criticized for establishing a monopoly on cannabis producers, and did not receive the endorsement of the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project — two critical organizations in the drug policy reform field.
In 2016 House Bill 523 passed the legalization of medical cannabis and developed guidelines for a cannabis system in Ohio. The system was established by September 2018, and in the interim period, qualifying patients were allowed to travel to Michigan to legally obtain medical cannabis and transport back to Ohio.
Medical cannabis was legally sold in Ohio for the first time in 2019. That same year, many Ohio cities took measures to further decriminalize possession of cannabis up to 100 grams. Dayton and Cincinnati eliminated all penalties and fees; Columbus reduced the fine to $10, and Cleveland eliminated penalties for possession up to 200 grams. In 2016 House Bill 523 passed the legalization of medical cannabis and developed guidelines for a cannabis system in Ohio. The system was established by September 2018, and in the interim period, qualifying patients were allowed to travel to Michigan to legally obtain medical cannabis and transport back to Ohio.
DOES OHIO HAVE A HEMP PROGRAM?
Growing, processing, and selling hemp and hemp extracts is legal in Ohio. Ohio’s Hemp Program is administered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and has been approved by the USDA as of December 27, 2019. The 2021 Ohio hemp growing season application period is open through April 9, 2021. Application requirements depend on the license type, but those seeking to sell hemp and hemp extracts do not need a license to perform those activities.
ARE YOU PREPARING FOR THE OHIO CANNABIS MARKET?
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy is currently not accepting applications for medical cannabis dispensaries but is on the cusp of announcing a major update to its licensing application timeline and requirements. As the state’s medical cannabis industry flourishes in the coming years, the opportunity for more dispensaries will arise out of necessity. Get ahead of the curve by developing your Ohio medical cannabis business plan and application strategy. Contact Point7 today to discuss our products and service packages, which can make the application process and post licensure operations seamless.