Treasure Chest

Ohio Triples Marijuana Dispensary Limit

  • Ohio medical marijuana program improves access.
  • Ohio Board of Pharmacy added 73 more medical marijuana dispensary licenses.
  • The additional dispensary licenses created more competition and lowered prices for medical marijuana in Ohio.
  • There are more than 184,000 medical marijuana patients in Ohio, more than ten times the original projections.

In an attempt to increase access for registered patients, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy voted to add more than 100 additional medical marijuana dispensary licenses in 2022, almost tripling the number of dispensaries in the state. In addition to allowing easier access, this measure created more competition and helped lower the price of medical cannabis across Ohio.

Before this move, the state faced a serious lack of dispensaries since the launch of its medical program in 2019. Many registered patients in Ohio were driving more than 30 miles to a dispensary on a monthly basis to pick up their limited supply of medical marijuana— and paying a lot to get it.

The Board of Pharmacy sent out a survey to patients and their caregivers and found that 58.4 percent of the patients believed they were paying too much for their medical marijuana. For that reason, many were making the trip to purchase recreational marijuana in Michigan. But the good news is that with more licenses, there are more stores. As of November 2023, the number of medical dispensaries in Ohio is 130. At the inception of the program, only 57 were serving the entire state.

Medical Marijuana in Ohio

Initially, legislators estimated that medical marijuana would be a slow-growing thing and estimated only 4,600-51,000 new marijuana card patients in the first two years. For that reason, Ohio capped the number of dispensaries at 57 across the state, thinking they wouldn’t need very many. Not surprisingly, Ohio surpassed the estimated number of patients in the first year.

When the medical marijuana program was launched in 2019, the projected number of patients was between 12,000 to 14,000. However, since the first dispensaries opened, there were 136,000 patients on their rosters. Today, almost 400,000 patients have registered, and almost 185,000 patients hold an active license and recommendation.

At the beginning, the state of Ohio had a huge demand but a shockingly limited supply of marijuana. In January of 2021, the two-year anniversary of the program, records indicated that 7,500 patients a month were being added to the registry. Dispensaries, on average, only need 300 to 600 patients to remain viable in the market. Every two years, the board revisits the program and aims to dole out additional licenses to fill in any gaps in the market. At the time, three of Ohio’s 31 medical marijuana districts in western Ohio had no dispensaries.

Greek leaves300ndE

So why the change?

With limited access to their medicine, many registered patients in Ohio eventually abandoned the program when faced with long drives and soaring prices. Records indicate that approximately one in five patients in the state left a dispensary due to abnormally long wait times, and one in four have abandoned a facility due to a lack of product selection.

In 2021, Matt Close, director of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association, said: “Ohio is experiencing a bottleneck at the dispensary level. Several large-scale marijuana growers haven’t yet built out to the capacity of their license. Patient access is No. 1. When we grow by over 5,000 patients a month, you just have to have more access for patients.”

To solve it, regulators gave out 73 more licenses to ensure that dispensaries were more accessible. There was a point where the state ended up having too much weed as patients left the program, but with more stores able to offer cannabis products, more patients have made their way back to deal with the surplus. Further, the increase in competition helped drive the prices down, which encouraged many patients to rejoin Ohio’s medical marijuana program. These days, 130 are operating, and the healthy competition has encouraged dispensaries to put patient care first.

How Many Medical Dispensaries Are In Ohio?

130 medical dispensaries are currently operating in Ohio, spread around 31 districts. There are still a few blank spaces in lower populated areas of the map, but when the program is revisited again in 2024, there will likely be additional licenses for dispensaries to operate in these areas to ensure patient care and access across Ohio.

Further, Ohio became the 24th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use in November 2023. While it will take some time to get the program up and running, additional licenses for recreational dispensaries will become available for both medical and recreational cannabis in 2024.

The data highlighted regions lacking accessible dispensaries, such as Southeast Ohio and the Northeastern corner of the state. The application rules still require a five dispensary cap per company. In 2021, four companies in the state already had the maximum number. Without changes to the rules, they will not be eligible for additional licenses.

However, existing licensed medical dispensaries will get first dibs on new recreational licenses when they’re awarded, and the state will prioritize applications for recreational licenses to assist business owners disproportionately affected by past marijuana law enforcement, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds or with prior marijuana-related arrests or convictions as part of the social equity program presented in Issue 2.

That said, it’s never been a better time to become a medical marijuana patient in Ohio. The more people enter the program, the more licenses will be awarded to new dispensaries. Further, it helps the state determine how many licenses will be necessary in which districts when the recreational dispensary program is launched.

Ohio appears to be moving forward with its medical marijuana program in spite of the inherent logistical barriers plaguing this burgeoning industry. The state is poised to have a flourishing cannabis program if the number of patients and dispensary applicants is an accurate barometer.

Scroll to Top