Over the summer, Ohio’s Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 523 into law – effectively legalizing medical cannabis for patients with any of the 21 listed qualifying conditions. That law went into effect this past September. However, patients within the state still have quite a wait before they will be able to drive down to a dispensary to pick up their medicine – and even though lawmakers gave a time frame that seemed a bit too long for many, it appears that they are at least on track to meet their own deadline.
Kasich has appointed the members of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee – who will be on the panel until September of 2018 at least, which is when the program is expected to be in full swing. Since then, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy has released the first draft of their proposed rules that would govern the medical marijuana industry – covering everything from how many cultivation licenses will be permitted to requirements of dispensaries and physicians. These regulations will have to be approved by the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, and then the state Common Sense Initiative and finally, the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review before it will be considered finalized.
Currently, the regulations look to allow a total of 12 larger cultivation facilities (up to 12,000 square feet) and 12 smaller facilities (up to 1,600 square feet) – doubling the original number of smaller facilities they will be allowing. Licenses for larger facilities would include a one-time application fee of $20,000 and an annual licensing fee of $180,000 – for smaller facilities the application fee would be $2,000 and the annual licensing fee would be $18,000. Some patients and activists are worried that there still will not be enough facilities to keep up with demand – but these numbers can be revisited if that turns out to be true.
A similar worry arises when looking at the number of dispensaries they are looking to allow – which is 40 in total, distributed amongst the state’s 88 counties. This will leave over half of the state needing to travel to a nearby county that has a licensed dispensary in order to get medical marijuana – and home delivery is not expected to be allowed. Limiting the number of dispensaries like this could end up being a major flaw in the program – New York patients have had a lot of trouble reaching dispensaries because of similar limitations.
Dispensaries will also be required to have a physician, physician’s assistant, pharmacist or nurse who would be either present or easily reached during business hours – and doctors recommending medical marijuana will not be allowed to have any financial stakes in the medical marijuana industry. Those physicians who wish to recommend medical cannabis to their patients will need a certificate from the state – which is expected to be free, though the required 2 hours of classes will likely cost around $250.
In the meantime, patients who are able to get a doctor’s recommendation (many doctors are being wary of recommending it until after the industry is up and running) will be able to possess their medicine legally – although it is undetermined how they are expected to obtain the medicine; many are assuming that they will go to other nearby states (and risk breaking federal law for crossing state lines) or will continue to buy their medicine off the black market until it is available legally.
All in all, it looks like the state is doing their best to keep things on track. The entire draft of the regulations exceeds 60 pages and covers a number of different areas – though these are the most significant issues currently addressed.