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Medical Marijuana Update: Programs with No Medical Marijuana to Dispense?

Published: Jun 06, 2018 by John Izzo

That is the problem facing Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program. Last year, the Ohio Department of Commerce promised that the medical marijuana control program would be fully operational on September 8, 2018, as mandated by the legislature. At the April Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee meeting, committee members were told something different. The program would be operational, said Mark Hamlin, policy advisor for the Department of Commerce. However, it would not be in its final form. The inference from that statement lead to the speculation that at least one dispensary would be open in the state, selling product that was grown in Ohio, tested, then processed for distribution. Now we know that is not going to happen.

On June 5, 2018, the Columbus Dispatch reported no cultivators have planted cannabis yet, and only one had been inspected. Hamlin acknowledged the September 8 deadline was aggressive, and stated it is no longer realistic. The new definition of fully operational means licenses have been issued to industry participants: cultivators, processors, laboratories, and dispensaries; certificates to recommend issued to physicians, and patient cards for the patients. Fully operational no longer means medical marijuana will be available to the patients who need it.

Twenty-four cultivator licenses were issued last year by Commerce. A twenty-fifth cultivator license was issued this year when Commerce determined it incorrectly added the score for an applicant. PharmaCann was originally displaced by an economically disadvantaged group. However, based upon its true score, PharmaCann should not have been displaced, and Commerce properly issued PharmaCann a license.

The State Medical Board of Ohio has authorized over eighty physicians to recommend medical marijuana for their patients who meet the Medical Board’s established criteria. More physicians continue to be added at each month’s regularly scheduled meetings.

At its June 4, 2018, meeting, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy awarded 56 medical marijuana dispensary licenses. This is less than the 60 that were originally authorized. How could this happen with over 370 applicants? That’s a good question.

The Pharmacy Board divided the state up into districts, then determined how many dispensaries should be in each district. No one applied in two districts, which were allotted a total of three medical marijuana dispensaries.’ In another district, there was only one applicant, but the applicant failed to meet the Board’s minimum score on its application. The Board does not intend to accept applications for these four open dispensaries at this time.

Interestingly enough, when Commerce announced there will be no medicine available on September 8, it failed to mention its part in the delay. Forty medical marijuana processor licenses have not been issued by Commerce. Commerce has also not issued a license to any testing laboratories. Without all licensees receiving sufficient time to become operational, of course, the entire program will not be operational. The above-mentioned Dispatch article says Commerce is blaming the cultivators for the delay of the program. Commerce needs to remember when you point the finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing in the other direction.

If you have any questions about the Medical Marijuana Control Program or the process to get a license, you should contact an attorney who has been certified as an expert in administrative agency law by the Ohio State Bar Association. John Izzo of Graff & McGovern is an expert in administrative law. He can be reached at 614-228-5800, extension 5, or