Andrew Keiper The Columbus Dispatch @keiperjourno
Ohioans were promised medical marijuana would be available by September 2018, but that legal deadline is in jeopardy because the state is taking so long to review the applications of potential cultivators.
The Department of Commerce announced Thursday it won’t award licenses until November 2017, two months later than many cultivators expected.
That means nascent cannabis industry will have only about 10 months, to build growing facilities, grow and process a crop, go through inspections and permitting processes, and get products in the hands of patients. House Bill 523, which legalized medical marijuana in Ohio, mandates the program be fully operational by Sept. 8, 2018.
“We are well on track to reach the September 2018 deadline,” said Kerry Francis, spokeswoman for the commerce department. The time frame is not officially shortened, she said, because there was never a previously announced deadline for the cultivator licenses.
The hard deadline for the program to be operational was written into the original law, in part to stymie the efforts of a broader medical marijuana ballot issue. Many expected business owners would have a year to get off the ground after receiving a license, so the November date has raised worries that some potential growers won’t make the cut.
Francis blamed the delay on the 185 applications, each exceeding 200 pages, that flooded the department when they were due in July. She couldn’t say how many staffers were working on processing the applications, but did note that the November decision is based on research with the timetables of other states that legalized medical marijuana.
Thomas Rosenberger, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio, said the move goes against industry expectations. He said the impact could affect everything from building and zoning to planting and harvesting.
“This will come as