CINCINNATI – Since medical marijuana became legal in Ohio in September, the rules for who can grow, test, sell and buy the sticky green drug are still being written.
Since October, a 14-member advisory board has been overseeing the rule-making process. By early May, rules for marijuana cultivators are expected to be adopted. Meanwhile, draft rules have been released for physicians, dispensaries, patients and testing laboratories.
“This is a critical phase in establishing Ohio’s medical marijuana industry,” said Chris Walsh, of Marijuana Business Daily, a Denver-based news and marijuana market research firm.
“It’s all about finding the right balance of regulation, but the big challenge is there is no blueprint to work from,” Walsh said. “Every state has done this differently, and it usually takes longer than expected.”
Ohio’s program is expected to be up and running by September 2018, but some proposed rules have advocates concerned that big delays could be ahead.
As written, the law bans private laboratories from testing medical marijuana for at least the first year of the program. Instead, the work will be required to be done at a public university.
“That could be a huge set back,” Walsh said.
Since medical marijuana is still illegal federally, some universities may be wary of risking federal grants if they take up the work, Walsh said. Setting up secure laboratories and buying equipment needed for testing could also be a costly and lengthily process, he added.
“If no universities step up, that will be a major barrier to getting Ohio’s program off the ground,” Walsh said.
So far, no public university has announced interest in doing the job – a process that’s proposed to come with a $20,000 price tag to apply and win the