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Here's how the state of Ohio will select 73 new medical marijuana dispensaries

Posted at 11:08 AM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 11:09:04-04

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy will start the process of issuing up to 73 new medical marijuana dispensary licenses when the official Request for Applications (RFA II) is published on Sept. 20, 2021. How they are selected will differ from the original process.

The move attempts to address concerns over access to dispensaries and medical marijuana products for patients.

Customers waited in the cold before Ohio's first medical marijuana sales in January 2019 to make sure dispensaries didn't sell out.

The Board of Pharmacy split Ohio into 31 dispensary districts, allowing it to chart where the state’s 56 existing dispensaries that have permission to operate already exist. There are two remaining dispensaries that have not yet received permission to open to patients. The new process would cap the state’s dispensaries at 130.

New dispensaries will also be allowed to include drive-through windows in their proposals while the state goes through a rule-making process to let existing dispensaries retrofit their facilities with drive-through windows. This comes after some rules were altered and relaxed in April 2020 to keep workers and patients safe during the pandemic.

The Forest Sandusky holds a media event in January 2019 before it opened to medical marijuana patients.

The new allocation method attempts to ensure there will be about 1,200 registered patients per dispensary in each dispensary district of the state. There would give Ohio more dispensaries per capita than in neighboring Pennsylvania.

After the RFA II is published on September 20, two Question and Answer sessions will be held between Sept. 20 to Oct. 6, 2021, and October 17-21. The application process will start on Nov. 4, 2021 and close on Nov. 18, 2021 at 2 pm.

Medical marijuana patients and employees are the only people allowed inside dispensary locations like The Botanist once the locations obtain their Certificates of Operation.

Applicants will have to pay a $5,000 application fee and submit related documents before the process closes on November 18.

The winning applications will be picked through a "drawing" process, where the applications are randomly ordered in each district. Only the applications that are selected will be vetted to make sure they meet the state’s criteria. If they do, they'll receive provisional dispensary licenses, allowing them to start construction on the facility. Officials said this would likely speed up the process compared to the "competitive ranking" system used during the first application process, which evaluated every dispensary application so the highest-scoring 58 could be chosen.

DeAngelis says she has to buy medical marijuana in bulk because the closest dispensary is still 30-40 minutes away and she doesn't have an easy way to get there.

The hope is that the drawing approach would streamline the process and potentially avoid litigation. Cannabis attorney and Frantz Ward LLP Partner Tom Haren says that's unlikely.

“These licenses are so valuable that you’re never going to stop litigation,” said Haren, who represents companies in Ohio’s medical marijuana industry. “It’s happened in every state, every time that new license are awarded, no matter if it’s a competitive scoring state, a lottery, what have you.”

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