Not an actual picture of the Rhode Island lottery balls but maybe this gives you an emotional understanding of what the balls go through. Credit: Dylan Nolte / Unsplash

We now know which applicants are at the front of the line for Ohio’s 73 new medical cannabis dispensary licenses, but with four criteria each applicant must meet, a sorting out is underway, and many applicants may still drop out, caution experienced operators in the state.

“We teamed up with a couple people. Eight applications, zero victories. Rough day at the office,” said Bill Williams, CEO of processor Beneleaves. “It’s not over yet. Let’s see if people can do what they said they can do in their application. We’ll see how everything shakes out.”

“The way I look at it, I perceive it not to be a final list, because they have to still dissect the qualifications. I don’t know if those people won yet,” said Ally Reeves, a legalization advocate that was part of an application team.

Ohio currently has 57 licensed dispensaries and 36 licensed cultivators.

Ohio’s application process required applicants to show they had a location ready, had $250,000 in capital available for each license applied for, and made payment of a $5,000 application fee. Applications were due on November 18, the drawing was conducted Jan. 27, and an ordered list of winning applicants was released last Monday, Jan. 31.

But, just because an applicant may be at the top of the list they still have to pass the gauntlet of four requirements: that the proposed location is not within 500-feet of a prohibited facility; the applicant can prove they have the $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.

“Politics plays into a lot of things. Everything has a system,” railed Nickole Ross, operator of Noohra Labs, a licensed processor opening this spring in Dayton that applied for dispensary licenses. “To have a lottery that’s based on financial obligations. I shouldn’t have to show you my bank statements for a renovation. If I wanted to [apply for] 30 licenses, you need to show $7.5 million of capital. Most underrepresented groups don’t have that kind of financial bandwidth.”

Still, a cursory look at the list of top ranked applicants suggests there are many smaller and Ohio-based winners.

“I’m not seeing a lot of MSOs,” said cannabis security provider and lobbyist Tim Johnson. The requirement for a $50,000 surety bond, “for a provisional license may knock a few people out, and that they’ll need another $500,000 to build out and become operational.”

Williams thinks that number is a bit higher. “You’re looking at $1.5, $1.6 [million] to get these off the ground,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that 15% of licenses must be awarded to diverse owners. That is incorrect. That section of the law was struck down after state courts ruled it unconstitutional after awarding the first round of licenses.


Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...