Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Program Has Been Delayed

Ohio still expects to have granted all the required licenses by the law’s Sept. 8 deadline, but cultivators have yet to start growing.
Ohio's Medical Marijuana Program Has Been Delayed
Brett Levin/ Flickr

Not 24 hours after the Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced which dispensary locations it had approved, Ohio’s medical marijuana program has been delayed. On Tuesday, officials confirmed that medical cannabis dispensaries will likely not open by September 8, as mandated by law. The delay is yet another snag in a program that has struggled to get off the ground.

Ohio Says Cultivators Are To Blame For Medical Marijuana Delays

Ohio’s medical marijuana program grants patients with any of 21 qualifying conditions the right to consume medical cannabis.

The 2016 law also mandates that Ohio’s medical cannabis program be “fully operational” by September 8, 2018. In this case, fully operational simply means that the state has issued all the required licenses.

Ohio awarded operating licenses to retail dispensaries only yesterday. But it granted provisional operating licenses to marijuana cultivators back in November.

“At that point, the ball was handed off to the cultivators,” senior policy advisor for Ohio’s Department of Commerce Mark Hamlin told The Columbus Dispatch.

Once they received their provisional licenses, cultivators were able to start setting up operations. But in order to actually start growing cannabis, growers also had to submit additional paperwork, meet background check requirements and pass an inspection.

The problem is that all but one of the 25 cultivators holding provisional licenses have yet to meet the conditions that would allow them to put seeds to soil.

Even if they were ready, it takes 3-4 months to grow and harvest a crop of cannabis. If cultivators started growing today—and they can’t—they’d still barely make the Sept. 8 deadline.

“We knew all along that this was an aggressive timeline,” Hamlin said.

Officials Still Expect To Issue All Licenses By September 8

According to Hamlin, the public got ahead of itself expecting medical marijuana sales would begin by September 8.

From state regulators’ perspectives, however, the law’s Sept. 8 deadline is simply the date when Ohio should have the program’s entire regulatory framework in place.

Hamlin said he was aware that the public thought this meant sales would begin Sept. 8. Ohio officials “committed to doing everything that we could do to help facilitate that and make that happen,” Hamlin said.

Patients are growing weary of the wait. “This is a miserable failure,” Democratic state Sen. Kenny Yuko told the Cincinnati Enquirer. Patients “had so much hope and trust. It was taken away,” Yuko said.

For patients who’ve grown tired of waiting on Ohio’s medical marijuana program, there is an alternative. The program allows patients to purchase cannabis out of state. Patients just need a doctor’s note.

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