Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is well underway to standing up its program, with the cultivator applications now submitted for the 24 licenses. Ultimately, the Department of Commerce, with the help of hired consultants, will determine which applicants will get one of the twelve small and twelve large cultivator licenses.

Rules that will form the basis for the 40 processor licenses and 60 dispensary licenses are currently scheduled for a July 31 hearing before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, and are expected to be final by late August of this year. The MMCP, by the passage of H.B. 523 (131st GA), must be fully operational by September 8, 2018, which means that patients with a physician’s recommendation should be able to purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary by that date.

(Note: The MMCP’s rules concerning patients, caregivers and physicians will be the subject of a separate article by KBHR.)

For cultivator applicants awaiting the Department of Commerce’s decision, there’s an option for a cultivator-processing license. For others desiring to get into the processor’s pool, the Department of Commerce’s draft rules are fairly close to finalization. For those desiring to open a dispensary, the Board of Pharmacy’s rules are close to finalization as well. The licensing process will be tedious, thorough and, of course, competitive.

Similar to cultivator applicants, processor and dispensary owners must have relatively clean records (albeit not “squeaky” clean since the statute and rules specify the disqualifying offenses) and be in compliance with state and federal tax requirements. The chosen locations must be at least 500 feet from specified facilities and the area chosen should not be subject to a local moratorium banning the business, among other requirements.

Equally important, the business plan, security and other requirements must establish that the applicant can not only operate the processing or dispensary facility successfully, but that it can also withstand delayed opening, market fluctuation or the unexpected. Bear in mind that planning is one thing – proving the wherewithal to do it is another.

Recent public hearings and comment sessions revealed a plethora of questions about the process. Recall that the cultivator application process birthed over 350 pared-down published Q&As, an announcement on interpreting the tax return submission requirement, and other guidance on certain form submissions.

Moreover, lawyers assisting clients, within the confines of Prof.Cond.R. 1.2(d)(2), are doing so with a periodic glance towards Washington to ensure the Federal Government continues its approach towards states operating a medical marijuana program.

Expect a fluid process over the next few months and more questions as the State forges ahead to get medical marijuana to patients and the Ohio market.