COLUMBUS, Ohio — Proposed licensing fees for medical marijuana businesses in Ohio would generate more than four times the amount regulators say is needed annually to run the program, according to budget estimates released Friday.
Ohio officials had said fees were set high in part to help cover costs of the program.
The state plans to spend at least $2.5 million a year on the program, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce. The program has already borrowed $1.8 million from state coffers for start-up costs.
But if the state awards all the initial business licenses available, it would collect $10.8 million a year just from license fees for cultivators, processors and dispensaries. Additional fees, including nonrefundable application fees, could generate a couple million more.
Surplus revenue from the program can’t be spent for other purposes such as education or road improvements.
Missy Craddock of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program said the high fees and financial requirements ensure the program attracts serious applicants who can afford to operate for months before turning a profit.
Craddock said it’s difficult to forecast revenue and expenses for the new program and fees could be lowered in the future. She used the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which also set up a new regulatory program funded by fees, as an example. Since Ohio’s casinos opened in 2012, the commission has lowered fees for only one type of license — employee license renewals.
“It’s much easier to reduce fees down the line in the future than it is to increase them,” Craddock told the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee on Friday. The state plans to begin accepting applications for marijuana grow licenses in June.
Patients, marijuana policy experts and advisory committee members have questioned the fees, which they worry will hike prices for patients and prevent small