Are you wondering how to get your Ohio cannabis business license? This page is dedicated to up-to-date information on this topic, and as license-winning attorneys in this state, we will provide you insights you won’t get anywhere else.
Due to demand from Ohio residents, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy has voted to increase the number of dispensary licenses awarded in the state from 57 to 130 on April 19, 2021. This is a huge step forward for patients and caregivers who have been waiting patiently for this day ever since the first dispensary in the state opened its doors in 2019.
Moreover, two Democratic lawmakers in Ohio — Democratic state representatives Casey Weinstein of Hudson and Terrence Upchurch of Cleveland — introduced a bill that aims to make recreational marijuana legal. House Bill 382 aims to decriminalize, tax, and allow the commerce and licensing of recreational cannabis. If passed, the bill would allow Ohio residents to buy and use marijuana and grow up to 12 plants. The bill also would create a commission to study the impact of legalizing marijuana. As these plans develop we will update this information.
However, not all of the efforts to further marijuana legalization in Ohio have been successful. Just this August, a group called Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) submitted a ballot proposal that aims to have a summary of their proposed law placed on the 2022 ballot. The group’s proposed law aims to allow adults aged 21 and older to grow, possess, and purchase marijuana. Unfortunately for CRMLA, Attorney General Dave Yost has rejected the ballot proposal on grounds of the ballot language summary not meeting the legal standards for approval. According to the Attorney General, there were at least 7 areas where the summary failed to accurately describe the proposed law.
Benefits of marijuana legalization in Ohio
The legalization of recreational cannabis in the state of Ohio is expected to result in economic growth according to the executive director of the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University, Douglas Berman. The new markets that will surface after legalization will pave the way for more dispensaries in the major cities, driving job creation and an uptick in local economies. Proponents of the bill are also eyeing the increased tax revenue that will result from the sales.
According to the Marijuana Business Factbook, the sales of medical cannabis in Ohio will reach between $350-$425 million this year. For comparison, last year’s sales hit $221.5 million. Furthermore, they are projecting a revenue of up to half-billion dollars by 2022 or 2023. At present time, there are 202,666 registered patients in the state — that is twice the number of registered individuals from a year ago.
In addition to re-energizing the economy and supplementing tax revenue, Rep. Upchurch also stressed that House Bill 382 is also about healthcare for Ohioans and that it’s time for the state to become a leader in cannabis decriminalization and legalization.
Current cannabis laws and restrictions in Ohio
Before you begin doubling down on your efforts to secure any kind of cannabis license in Ohio, the first thing you must understand are the existing laws and restrictions governing the use of medical marijuana in the state.
In 2016, Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 523, or the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, into law. This made Ohio the 25th state to have a functional medical marijuana law.
According to HB 523, only patients who are formally diagnosed with any of the qualifying medical conditions and have received a recommendation from a state-approved physician can participate in the medical marijuana program. In addition to the qualifying conditions stated in the summary, the medical board of the state may add other diseases as it sees fit.
As of July 2021, there are 202,666 medical marijuana patients registered in Ohio. 14,039 of this number are veterans, 15,550 are indigents, and 866 are patients with terminal conditions.
Also in House Bill 523, municipalities are afforded the right to set their own prohibitions or limitations regarding the sales of medical marijuana. Currently, there is quite a list of towns in Ohio that have either a 6, 12, or 18-month moratorium or a total ban on medical marijuana in place. You can see the full list here which is updated periodically.
Decriminalization is also not uniform across the state. Currently, there are only 18 towns and cities that have decriminalized the possession of medical marijuana up to a certain limit (which also varies from city to city). These places are Athens, Bellaire, Bremen, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Fremont, Logan, Nelsonville, Newark, Northwood, Norwood, Oregon, Roseville, Toledo, Windham, and Yellow Springs.
Medical Marijuana Cultivator Licenses
The state of Ohio allows a certain number of marijuana cultivators and medical marijuana dispensaries. Only cultivators and dispensaries with a certificate of operations can begin their participation in the program.
A cultivator or grower is defined as a person or entity that cultivates or grows the marijuana plant that will be later subject to processing. There are currently two types of cultivator licenses awarded in the state: Level I and Level II.
Level I cultivators are allowed to operate within an area of up 25,000 square feet initially. Meanwhile, Level II marijuana cultivators can grow the plant only within 3,000 square feet of space. All the licensees can apply for an expansion down the road. As of 2021, 34 cultivation licenses have been awarded in Ohio.
Cultivator licenses can cost between $20,000 to $200,000 subject to renewal annually. The application for cultivator licenses is currently closed.
Medical Marijuana Dispensary License
A marijuana dispensary is where qualified patients can purchase their medical marijuana. Keep in mind that patients are allowed to obtain only up to 90 days’ worth of supply and dispensaries are responsible for making the correct calculations.
A request for application marks the beginning of the application process, followed by the submission of the requirements including the fees. The cost of a marijuana dispensary license in Ohio begins at $75,000. That’s $5,000 for the application fee and $70,000 for the certificate of operations. In addition, the cost can go up depending on how many associated key and key employees are involved in your dispensary.
Persons, partnerships, LLCs, corporations, cooperatives, and joint ventures can apply for a dispensary license. However, although the number of dispensary licenses was increased this year, the Board of Pharmacy has stopped accepting applications for licensed dispensaries.
What’s next for the legalization of recreational cannabis in Ohio?
Now that House Bill 382 has been formally introduced, the next step is to have it referred to a House committee. The House committee will then wait for a majority vote before taking further legislative action.
On the other hand, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, whose petition was rejected by the AG, has resubmitted their petition. If approved, the petition will end up on the 2022 ballot and if they gather more than 132,000 signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, then the Ohio legislature will have to study the proposal and decide whether to approve the law or not.
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Building on almost 20 years in litigation, Justin’s practice specializes in regulated cannabis organizations consulting, formation, permitting, investment, expansion, and related ancillary legal services. Focusing on Cannabis law since 2016, Moriconi Flowers has successfully permitted applicants multi-state and on the Federal level. He is also co-owner of the first cannabis dispensary in Pennsylvania. Justin continues to return results in the face of adversity and against large firms for clients in all aspects of business and litigation. Justin and co-founder of Moriconi Flowers, Ted Flowers, regularly lecture on various topics on a local and national level in the commercial cannabis, security, insurance, and litigation space.
A 1997 graduate of Temple Law School, Ted’s experience in liquor licensing matters, representing hotels, bars, restaurants, distillers, and distributors through all stages of the licensing and regulatory process, made a natural transition to cannabis law practice in 2016. Focusing on Cannabis law since 2016, Moriconi Flowers has successfully permitted applicants multi-state and on the Federal level. He is also co-owner of the first cannabis dispensary in Pennsylvania. Ted and co-founder of Moriconi Flowers, Justin Moriconi, regularly lecture on various topics on a local and national level in the commercial cannabis, security, insurance, and litigation space.