CLEVELAND – Long-time natives and carpetbaggers. Construction magnates, toy tycoons, an Olympian and an heir to the Jim Bean whiskey fortune. These are some of the investors vying to win approval to grow medical cannabis in Ohio. The state accepted 185 applications in June and now has to decide who gets the 24 cultivator licenses available.
Ohio’s medical marijuana law, passed last year, allows people with 21 medical conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s and epilepsy, to purchase and use marijuana after getting a doctor’s recommendation. The law doesn’t allow smoking.
Ohio has some of the country’s highest licensing fees. Small growers pay $2,000 to apply and $18,000 in licensing fees, while large growers pay $20,000 to apply and $180,000 in licensing. The applications will be scored out of 100 points based on their business plans, cultivation methods and past industry experience.
The estimated cost of opening a facility runs from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of millions. Yet that hasn’t deterred local business owners, minorities or investors from California to Pennsylvania from applying.
They find Ohio attractive because they believe it’s learned from the lessons of other states, from federal raids on Montana cultivators to harsh restrictions in Illinois that hampered patient access and curbed demand.
“They’re paying attention and adopting what works and improving what didn’t,” said Chris Lindsey, a legal analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “That puts Ohio really far, far ahead of the game compared to a lot of other states.”
With so much at stake, groups have scouted medical professors and hired seasoned consultants to boost their chances. Some declined to speak because they did not want to jeopardize their applications. Ohio hasn’t announced when licenses will be issued, but the program is due to be