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Dispensary owner, state lawmakers call for more diversity in the medical marijuana industry

Medical marijuana
Posted at 12:10 AM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 00:10:43-04

CLEVELAND — Ohio is preparing to double the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. The hope is to alleviate some of the problems with the relatively new industry, including travel distance, price, and supply.

But there are some concerns about who will receive these new licenses.

Ariane Kirkpatrick is the owner of Ohio's first Black-owned dispensary. She says the accomplishment is bittersweet.

She owns Harvest of Ohio—with three locations in Athens, Beavercreek and Columbus.

“It’s like an oxymoron to be the first because this is 2021, so to be the first in this industry, an industry that has so many roots in the minority community, just doesn’t settle well with my stomach," Kirkpatrick said.

According to Ohio’s Board of Pharmacy, just eight the state's 58 dispensaries are minority owned.

When medical marijuana was first legalized, the state said 15% of all dispensary licenses must go to minorities. But in 2019, the Madison County Court of Common Pleas struck down that quota saying there was no proof of discrimination or prejudice in the cannabis industry.

“There’s some type of systemic and structural racism that has happened, that we need to recognize, and we need to make corrections so we can be part of it, we need to make sure that diversity, equity and inclusion is in this industry,” Kirkpatrick said.

And that was the reason behind State Representative Juanita Brent's news conference today.

As the state plans to award 73 new dispensary licenses, some lawmakers are calling for the state to do a disparity study to uncover what Brent and her colleagues call an obvious systemic issue.

“Two years later. There's no predicate study. There's no disparity study. This is something that we could have done, but we didn't do,” State Rep Thomas West said.

Lawmakers explained that the fees, the need to find capital, and overall education keeps many minorities away from owning dispensaries. And they're hoping the state addresses those limitations.

“We are asking to be allowed to get in the game what African American and people of color have demonstrated time and time again is when given an opportunity, we can compete with anyone,” Herb Washington said.

As far as where the new dispensaries will open? Cuyahoga County is set to get seven more licenses. Summit County will get two, while Lake, Geauga and Portage Counties will get three.

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