It’s been over a month since Ohio announced lottery winners of its second round of 73 medical cannabis dispensary licenses, and regulators say it could be months more before licenses are actually awarded.
“The review of the applications selected as part of the drawing is still on-going. The Board hopes to have an announcement in the coming months of those who have been awarded a provisional dispensary license,” said Cameron McNamee, spokesperson for the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the agency that regulates cannabis dispensaries.
“We are conducting thorough reviews of each applicant selected to determine they meet the requirements listed in their application. This includes site visits to ensure the proposed facility is not near a prohibited facility, reviews of financial documentation, and many other requirements necessary to operate a dispensary in the State of Ohio,” said McNamee.
“Several months is what we expected for the process to take. That’s what different members of the industry have talked about,” said Andy Rayburn, owner of Buckeye Relief, a dispensary, processor, and cultivator in Eastlake. Rayburn is also president of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association.
Ohio’s dispensary license award process requires first for licensees to apply, then winners are ranked through a lottery. Next, those lottery winners are examined to see if they satisfy four requirements: that the proposed location is not within 500 feet of a prohibited facility; the applicant can prove they have $250,000 available to build and operate a facility; the applicant doesn’t go over the state’s five dispensary license limit; and that the applicant has not violated state statutes or rules.
Ariane Kirkpatrick, CEO of Harvest of Ohio, a cultivator and processor with three dispensaries throughout the state, was concerned that the delays will have an outsized impact on those new to the industry with few resources.
“I feel for those people. It’s hanging up a lot of money, especially with the real estate people have to keep,” she said.
The fact that the application process would likely take months – this round of applicants first submitted on November 18, 2021 – and during that time applicants would have to pay for options on property as well as keep $250,000 in reserved for each applied license, was too big an investment for Kirkpatrick.
“That’s why we made a decision not to do it,” said Kirkpatrick. “It would have probably put us in a deeper hole. Financially this could be a lucrative business, but there are so many costs you can’t even fathom. Not to mention waiting. I know they say [the Board of Pharmacy] wants to help and they don’t want to see people fail, but I don’t think everything should be so regulatory.”
Still, other leaders of Ohio’s cannabis industry viewed the wait as just the price to pay to make sure things are done right.
“I’m okay with them taking as long as they need in order to select the right operators,” said Adam Thomarios, CEO and founder of vertically-integrated Klutch Cannabis who has three high ranked applications he expects to turn into applications. “We would prefer to know overnight obviously, but they’ve got a job to be sure that everybody follows the rules.”