Ohio could more than double its total number of medical dispensaries as early as next year, following the Ohio Board of Pharmacy’s awarding of 70 new RFA II provisional dispensary licenses in the state, on Monday. 

“We will finally have dispensaries in all districts of Ohio. We made sure that we will finally have better coverage across the state in this process,” said Cameron McNamee, Ohio Board of Pharmacy’s spokesperson. “We know there is a need to expand the process and the drawing process helped turn this around much quicker. 

The state currently has 58 licensed medical dispensaries.

“Hopefully we see them operational soon,” Ohio cannabis lobbyist Tim Johnson said. “I’m sure they’ll do well out there in the rural areas that have needed them.”

Other cannabis lobbyists and activists in the state say that while it’s not on the path towards recreational use, people such as NORML Appalachia executive director Don Keeney said that it is baby steps toward that progress.

The state expanded the number of available licenses to meet the demand of patients in the state, which McNamee, says was overwhelming and far exceeded expectations. 

A 2020 study by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy showed that more than 60% of Ohioans travel more than 10 miles to go to one dispensary. The board believes that the new expansion will bring in 1,200 registered patients per dispensary district.

Another stated goal by the board was to ensure the licenses are not overly concentrated in the biggest cities.

The application process drew more than 1,400 requests last year before its Nov. 18, 2021 deadline with a drawing for the winners happening in late January

McNamee says that the board used a drawing process to expedite the process to award licenses at a quicker rate.The Ohio Lottery Commission conducted the drawings, before the Board reviewed their applications for compliance with Chapter 3796, according to the state’s announcement of the new provisional licenses. 

RFA II license applicants must already have or plan to build a space that complies with state medical marijuana regulations and pass a state Board of Pharmacy inspection to receive approval to operate. Applicants will have a 270 day window – nearly nine months – to become fully operational.

Applicants must also prove that the proposed location is not within 500 feet of a prohibited facility such as a school or church, as well as have $250,000 available to build and operate a facility.

The original drawing pulled 73 applications to be approved. However, three cannabis businesses – Green Bud LLC, Cannabis Ventures, and Healing Through Cannabis – were still in the process of being reviewed by the board for unspecified reasons, as of May 18.

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.