Ohio Medical Marijuana Dispensary Limit Tripled
- Ohio medical marijuana program improves access.
- Ohio Board of Pharmacy adds 100 more medical marijuana dispensary licenses.
- The additional dispensary licenses will create more competition and potentially lower prices for medical marijuana in Ohio.
- There are more than 136,000 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 recently voted to add more than 100 medical marijuana dispensary licenses, almost tripling the number of dispensaries in the state. In addition to allowing easier access, this measure will create more competition and potentially lower the price of medical cannabis across Ohio.
The state has experienced a significant dearth of dispensaries since the launch of its medical marijuana program. 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.
The same patients were extremely unhappy with the exorbitant prices of cannabis products. The Board of Pharmacy was compelled to send out a survey to patients and their caregivers. That survey found 58.4 percent of the patients believed they were paying too much for their medical marijuana.
Ohio medical marijuana statistics
Initially, based on the estimated 4,600-51,000 new marijuana card patients in the first two years, Ohio capped the number of dispensaries at 60 across the state. Not surprisingly, Ohio surpassed the estimated number of patients in the first year.
When the medical marijuana program was launched, 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. 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. Three of Ohio’s 31 medical marijuana districts in western Ohio currently have no dispensaries.
Active Ohio Dispensary Locations: 4/21/21
However, many registered patients in Ohio eventually abandoned the program when faced with long drives and soaring prices. Regulators are confident that once the new, more affordable dispensaries open, those same patients will return to the program.
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.”
Records indicate that approximately one in five patients in the state left a dispensary due to abnormally long wait times. According to a state survey done last year, one in four have abandoned a facility due to a lack of product selection.
It’s slow growing for Ohio dispensaries
Prior to soliciting dispensary applicants, the board included some slight alterations to the licensing process and submitted the changes in early February. The early applications required facilities to be fully operational within six months of receiving their license. Many applicants were unable to comply with this regulation, therefore the board wants to extend that deadline to nine months.
There are also plans to encourage applicants in areas where none applied or qualified the first time by sharing data about patient demand.
Opening a dispensary can be a time-consuming, convoluted experience for applicants. The board takes more than six months to score and review applications. In fact, Ohio’s first dispensary didn’t open its doors until seven months after its license was approved. Many operating dispensaries in the state took almost a year to become fully functional, and five other applicants are still waiting for board approval.
In the upcoming months, data will be assembled to effectively highlight regions lacking accessible dispensaries, such as Southeast Ohio and the Northeastern corner of the state. There is still speculation on whether or not licenses would multiply by a certain factor or be added in a more targeted area to other parts of the state.
The application rules still require a five dispensary cap per company. At this time, four companies in the state already have the maximum number. Without changes to the rules, they will not be eligible for additional licenses.
Kate Nelson, president of The Botanist, an MSO which operates five dispensaries in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, and Columbus believes this “unfairly penalizes operators who have proven they can do a good job. If we’re getting to the place where we’re expanding licenses, the cap should be proportional.”
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 are an accurate barometer.
The Board is expecting to grant licenses to at least 73 additional dispensaries in the state and plans to announce the application process this spring or summer.