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Ohio Cannabis Industry

In November of 2023, 57% of Ohio voters approved Issue 2, a ballot initiative supporting the

legalization of cannabis for adult-use in the buckeye state. Although Ohio’s cannabis legalization status was changed, recreational sales are not expected to begin until late 2024. Ohio governor Mike DeWine has been pleading with state officials to allow medical dispensaries to begin operating for adult-use, as he believes the delay in recreational availability will lead to heightened activity on the black market and a spike in illegal cannabis sales.

Although cannabis was only legalized for adult-use in Ohio last fall, The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) has seen overwhelming success since its implementation in 2018. Ohio averages roughly $10 million in cannabis product sales each week, generating nearly $500 million in sales in 2023. Both recreational and medical cannabis sales will now be overseen by the Ohio Department of Commerce and its Division of Cannabis Control (DCC). While revenue is expected to grow once non-medical cannabis is available for purchase, the DCC also plans to improve Ohio’s current medical cannabis program.

The DCC is responsible for regulating the cultivation, processing , testing, and sale of cannabis in the state of Ohio, ensuring access to safe cannabis products for registered patients and individuals over the age of 21. Since January 1st, 2024, The DCC has been creating rules and regulations for both medical and adult-use cannabis and is expected to have recreational dispensary licensing applications available by June 7th, 2024. Despite Gov. DeWine’s efforts to speed up the availability and sale of recreational cannabis, it is unlikely that dispensaries will open to prior September, 2024.

The DCC has also begun to make changes to the OMMCP, reducing its patient registration fee from $50 to just $0.01 for both applicants and renewals. Additionally, the DCC has proposed to reduce the renewal fee for licensed medical processors in the state from $100,000 to $50,000.The DCC also proposed streamlining the hiring process and background checks required to work in Ohio’s cannabis industry, to provide operators with more readily available employees. The number of cannabis users in Ohio has grown rapidly, and despite legalization for adult use, Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is also expected to see an increase in its number of patients and sales once recreational dispensaries open later this year.

With Gov. DeWine pushing for expedited availability of adult-use cannabis, and the DCC

proposing lowered costs for medical cannabis patients and employees of the industry, it is

evident that updating regulatory policies for cannabis is important to Ohio residents. However, with little progress being made, and no clear answer from state officials on an updated timeline, it almost appears as if the DCC is trying to incentivize becoming a medical patient, at least for the time being. Decreased costs and taxes associated with the medical market may drive many consumers with qualifying conditions to obtain a medical marijuana card instead of purchasing from a recreational dispensary. The DCC plans to continue to advocate for medical and recreational users alike, however, whether the recent advocacy for the OMMCP’s patients and employees is for the permanent benefit of medical consumers or the temporary benefit of Ohio’s Department of Commerce isn’t crystal clear.

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