Medical marijuana will be grown on up to 24 licensed sites statewide, subject to some of the highest fees in the country, under the final rules recently presented to legislators. The cultivator portion of the rules, which also details the application and license fees for retail dispensaries, product processors and testing labs, cleared the Ohio legislature’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review without objection from the panel.
The rules will be officially filed later this month and take effect before the May 6th statutory deadline. Rules and regulations for retail dispensaries, product processors and testing labs are still being revised, but must be in place by September 8th. Columbus attorney David Patton raised concerns about banning license applicants with criminal records. Ohio law allows people convicted of certain crimes, to be determined by regulators, to be eligible for marijuana business licenses if the offenses occurred more than five years prior.
Patton said the rules don’t set a hard line between which offenses qualify or disqualify someone and the state is setting itself up for a lawsuit. Under the rules, a first-degree misdemeanor conviction or guilty plea doesn’t “automatically disqualify” someone to obtain a license or work as a key dispensary employee if it occurred more than five years ago. Possessing more than 200 grams of marijuana, or a little over 7 ounces, is a felony charge in Ohio.
Patton recently said, “Nobody wants criminals involved in the medical marijuana program, but the fact is most of the people who understand this industry have been engaged in medical marijuana activities and recreational activities for decades.” Justin Hunt, chief operating officer for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, said the pertinent offenses are clearly listed in the rules.
Hunt stated, “The authority we have is broad to draft the rules; that help us establish a safe medical marijuana program and ensure a safe, consistent supply for the patients that will ultimately rely on this medicine.” Ohio’s medical marijuana law, passed in June 2016, allows people with one of 21 medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a physician. Most of the details about the program, such as who will grow and sell marijuana and how much patients can buy, were left to the commerce department, Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and Ohio State Medical Board.
The Department of Commerce plans to begin accepting applications for cultivator licenses in June, after a few weeks of answering questions from interested parties. Applicants must meet certain financial criteria, have local approval for their proposed site and submit security and quality assurance plans, among other requirements. The rules and regulations have not substantially changed in the five months since first proposed by the department, despite concerns about the pricey license fees and out-of-state investors having an advantage over Ohioans.