Delays Dog Ohio Medical Marijuana Regime, but Program Pushes Forward Full Steam Ahead

Over the past two years Ohio legislators have undertaken rapid efforts to mobilize a comprehensive regulatory regime to tackle the issue of medical marijuana. The goal was to draw upon the best aspects of other states’ systems while avoiding their errors, and establish a unique “seed to stem” tracking system providing for complete accountability and oversight of the entire marijuana plant. And, while the state missed its rollout date among legal and administrative setbacks, marijuana businesses are beginning to commence operations with some anticipating opening shop in next few months.

H.B. 523 – Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program was passed on September 8, 2016 and legalized medical marijuana in Ohio. The bill put forth an ambitious timeline to establish a well-regulated marijuana industry within two years. However, amid delays involving errors in grading, licensing disputes, and missed regulatory deadlines, the program failed to meet its target launch date of September 8, 2018.

Precisely when Ohio’s system will fully launch is uncertain. As of late November 2018, none of the 5 state-licensed testing labs are operating. None of the 56 licensed dispensaries have opened their doors.  No patients have been officially registered for the program, and Ohio’s proposed ‘closed-loop’ payment system has yet to materialize.

Nonetheless, many regulators and entrepreneurs had been expecting a staggered start and remain optimistic despite delays. Mark Hamlin of the Ohio Department of Commerce noted that the extra time invested was creating a safer system by not forcing businesses to rush to hit deadlines. Charlie Bachtell, CEO of cultivator Cresco Labs, stated that Ohio has been doing a great job of keeping things moving forward.  Langsville-based Agri-Med Ohio LLC recently finished growing and harvesting its first batch of marijuana.

Ohio’s medical marijuana regime may now be looking at more of a “soft-launch” as the program heads into 2019. The coming months will likely see businesses continue to ramp-up operations, while the state finishes ironing out the remaining administrative issues beleaguering full implementation. In the meantime, the program continues to build momentum and businesses continue to prepare. Now that the smoke is finally beginning to clear, it’s safe to say that medical marijuana has nearly arrived in Ohio.