Ohio Issues 70 New Medical Cannabis Dispensary Licenses

Since Ohio has legalized the use of medical marijuana, the number of the state’s dispensaries for medical marijuana this year will more than double. This follows the approval of 70 new licenses by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. At present, there are 58 Ohio medical marijuana dispensaries. After the awarding of the new licenses, the number jumped to 131. This means that the towns that don’t have dispensaries will have at least 1.

Currently registered patients in the medical marijuana program number are over 261,000. Around 138,000 of them have active recommendations from their physicians. The registered individuals without active recommendations claim that the products are either inaccessible or too costly. The increase in the number of dispensaries will help solve these issues.

New licenses

The officials of Ohio have pushed through with their plans to increase the Ohio medical marijuana dispensary number to more than double the current number. They announced this change after approving 70 new retail licenses, which they awarded through a lottery. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the agency that regulates the dispensaries of medical cannabis in the state, announced the recipients of licenses on the 16th of May, 2022.

The Board conducted an Ohio medical marijuana dispensary lottery early this year. After that, they reviewed the applications to make sure that they all complied with the security, patient care, and business requirements for the license. A specific number of new retail licenses for cannabis got assigned to each of the dispensary districts that consist of a group or individual counties. The whole list of provisional recipients of the license is on the official website.

Last year, the regulators of the state approved a higher number of medical cannabis dispensaries. This came with a plan to issue licenses to 73 more retailers. The initial limit that the Ohio Board of Pharmacy set in 2017 was 60 licenses for dispensaries. They based this on an estimated count of patients between 12,000 and 24,000 over two years. Right now, the state has 58 dispensaries with licenses. These cater to more than 261,000 patients enrolled in the medical marijuana program.

How does it work?

The Board of Pharmacy will only award an operation certificate after obtaining a positive inspection. During this time, each provisional licensee for an Ohio medical marijuana dispensary will get 270 days to start operations. The state’s plan to expand the existing licenses for Ohio medical marijuana dispensaries began in April 2021. They decided on this after the agency’s review, where they determined that the system required an upgrade for various reasons. One reason was the lack of dispensaries in the state’s western area. Another reason was Ohio has a thinner density of dispensaries compared to other states that offer medical cannabis. The final reason is that there were more patients who signed up for the cannabis program.

The goal of the Board is to have around 1,200 patients in each district. Right now, there are three additional licenses under consideration. But with the current situation, residents can expect a decision to happen soon. In the most recent round of provisional licensing, the state received 1,465 applications. They chose the winners through a lottery drawing. Then they reviewed the awardees per dispensary district. The purpose was for the Board to go through each business plan, application, and other attached documents.

The most recent round differed from the first, where many of those who got denied sued. They claimed that the staff of the board weren’t objective. This led to lawsuits that went on for years. But in this round, many applicants got denied because they were less than 500 feet from a prohibited facility like a school.

Why is there a need for more dispensary licenses?

After a review of the Ohio medical marijuana dispensary number in the state in April 2021, the staff of the Board of Pharmacy discovered that there was a need for more dispensaries. When compared to the medical marijuana programs of other states, the dispensaries on a per capita basis had shown a need to add more dispensaries in Ohio for medical marijuana.

Apart from the lack of dispensaries, the Board also discovered that the number of registered medical marijuana patients in Ohio exceeded the initial estimations. Also, some areas in the west part of Ohio don’t even have any dispensaries. The Board wanted to ensure that all patients in these areas had reasonable access to what they needed. They hope that the proposed expansion will lead to 1,200 registered patients for each dispensary district.

Requirements needed

Those who run Ohio medical marijuana dispensaries must fulfill specific requirements when applying for licenses. First off, they need to provide articles of incorporation, dispensary and business addresses, and an organizational chart that includes the key figures in the business. To open an Ohio medical marijuana dispensary, they should also provide tax information, if possible, along with a business plan and a purchase agreement or lease for the location of the dispensary. 

Along with this, other requirements include a floor plan and documents issued by the municipality that the location of the dispensary doesn’t violate any zoning rules. There should also be a construction schedule and budget certified by a contractor or architect. Anyone who plans to operate an Ohio medical marijuana dispensary should also submit a survey that shows how the dispensary won’t be within 500 feet of a church, public park, public library, or school. They should also include a budget for post-construction and other required documents.

The Board received a total of 1,465 applications. The Ohio Lottery added all of these applications to a drawing where the lottery officials chose them. The staff of the Board of Pharmacy then reviewed the submitted applications. The number of each business got drawn into a geographic region known as a “dispensary district.” This number indicated the order in which their application got reviewed. This ensures that the business submits all of the business plans, paperwork, and other state-required documents.

The drawing of the lottery differed greatly from the first round of the issuance of provisional dispensary licenses. In the first round, the board staff scored each application and awarded licenses through a review. The businesses that didn’t receive licenses believed the employees were too inconsistent and subjective. Because of this, many businesses filed a lawsuit.

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