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Ohio Doubles Access to Medical Cannabis Dispensary Licenses

Businesses can apply for 73 new dispensary licenses this summer.

April 23, 2021

The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy has approved increasing the number of state dispensary licenses by 73, bringing the total allowed to 130 statewide.

According to the proposal, the Board considered three key factors when deciding to expand the number of dispensary licenses: the state’s population, the number of patients seeking to use medical cannabis and the geographic distribution of dispensary sites.

The Board initially issued 57 dispensary licenses; however, there are currently only 52 operating dispensaries. Compared to bordering states’ medical cannabis programs, like Pennsylvania and Michigan, Ohio’s current number of permits is low based on the state’s population, the proposal states.

For example, Pennsylvania has 109 medical cannabis dispensaries, and its population is about 12.8 million, equaling 0.85 dispensaries per capita. Ohio has 57 medical cannabis dispensaries, and its population is roughly 11.69 million, equaling 0.48 dispensaries per capita, according to the proposal.

And as of January, Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) reported over 135,000 registered patients, a significantly higher number than the initial estimates of acquiring 12-24,000 registered patients within the first two years of the program, the proposal states. (Medical cannabis sales began in Ohio in early 2019.)

The Board also found that there are currently “three dispensary districts without an operational dispensary, thus indicating a need to increase the number of dispensaries to ensure geographic distribution and patient access.”

Adding 73 new dispensary licenses will ensure geographic distribution, patient access and bring dispensaries per capita to 1.11, the proposal states.

Next Steps

Licenses will be awarded using an RFA II application process that is expected to be announced this spring or summer, depending on when the Board’s pending rule changes are made final.

“As previously done, RFA II will require applicants to specify the district(s) wherein they are applying, and provisional dispensary licenses will be awarded based on those districts. The districts will remain the same as in the previous RFA,” the proposal states.

From there, all applications will be evaluated to determine who is a qualified applicant. Eligible applications will then be entered into a lottery system where “individual lotteries will be held for each dispensary district with available licenses,” the proposal states.

When the application process is announced, the OMMCP will post more information regarding the application process on its website.