Ohio has legalized recreational cannabis. Click HERE to learn more about cannabis business opportunities in Ohio.

How To Open A Dispensary In Ohio

Illustration of the state of Ohio with a cannabis leaf overlay and the text "How to open a Dispensary in Ohio."

Overview

Are you wondering how to open a dispensary in Ohio? Perhaps another type of cannabis business and would like to better understand requirements and next steps? This page is dedicated to providing you with up-to-date information and insights regarding the state of Ohio’s cannabis industry. 

Cannabis for medical purposes is legal in Ohio. Recreational cannabis use will also be legal following the November 7, 2023 vote by Ohioans, with the law taking effect on December 7, 2023. The legislation passed by Ohio voters allows adults to have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or 15 grams of extract. It permits buying cannabis from stores or growing up to 12 plants in private homes with at least two adults. Retail cannabis products will incur a 10% tax.

Ohio’s Path To Recreational Legalization

On July 27th, 2021, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) filed an initiative, also known as An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis, that aims to legalize recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 or older in Ohio. The campaign submitted signatures on December 20th, 2021, but fell short by 13,062 signatures. They had until January 14th, 2022, to collect more. On January 28th, 2022, enough signatures were obtained, allowing the issue to go to the state legislature.

On May 13th, 2022, CTRMLA reached an agreement with state authorities postponing the marijuana legalization issue from the November 2022 ballot to 2023. They retained more than 140,000 signatures and weren’t required to start over. However, the Ohio General Assembly didn’t decide on the initiative by the May 3rd, 2023 deadline, forcing the campaign to restart signature collection to secure ballot placement.

On May 22nd, 2023, Ohio State Reps. Casey Weinstein and Jamie Callender have introduced a new adult-use cannabis legalization bill. House Bill 168 expands on previous legislation discussed in the 2022 legislative session, aligning with the legalization efforts led by the CTRMLA, who were striving to bring an adult-use legalization measure before voters in 2023. 

On August 3rd, 2023, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) submitted over 6,000 additional signatures for a marijuana legalization initiative after falling 679 short of their initial submission of 220,000 signatures. On August 16th, 2023, the Ohio secretary of state’s office confirmed the initiative would be on the November ballot. The Ohio Ballot Board unanimously approved the summary language for the initiative, now referred to as Issue 2, on August 24th, 2023. Issue 2 aims to legalize and regulate cannabis use, possession, and cultivation for adults 21 and older.

On August 29th, 2023, a survey by Fallon Research & Communications was released and revealed that 59 percent of registered Ohio voters support a cannabis reform proposal. This survey highlights a noteworthy shift: GOP voters now favor legalization more, and overall opposition has decreased compared to a July poll. Another survey released by Baldwin Wallace University on October 18th, 2023 revealed that over 57% of Ohio registered voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana on the November ballot, while roughly 35% oppose it. Issue 2 has majority support across various demographic groups, including political party, gender, age, race, religion, and education level.

During the general elections on November 7th, 2023, 57% of voters supported Issue 2, leading to the legalization of cannabis in Ohio. This measure took effect on December 7th, 2023. However, the state legislature has the authority to modify the statute at any point, which could influence both its effective date and specific provisions. On November 29th,  Ohio lawmakers proposed changes to this bill. The proposed amendments aim to allow municipalities to ban cannabis operations and home cultivation, and to modify how cannabis tax revenues are allocated. The bill also suggests the creation of new funds, including the Law Enforcement Cannabis Training Fund, and a reorganization of the Substance Abuse Fund. These legislative efforts reflect a dynamic shift in Ohio’s cannabis policy, balancing voter-approved legalization with regulatory and fiscal adjustments. This section will be updated as soon as there are developments regarding the measure.

In a December 21st, 2023 interview, Governor Mike DeWine urged swift action to resolve the absence of regulated marijuana sales outlets. Despite initial opposition, DeWine advocates for expediting legal sales, supporting a Senate bill to allow medical dispensaries to start adult sales within 90 days. He also aims to close loopholes around intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids and redirect tax revenues towards police training, a move met with skepticism from advocates favoring the original allocation towards equity and job placement. 

On April 9th, 2024, Ohio lawmakers moved forward with an expedited plan to launch recreational marijuana sales potentially by June 2024. The Division of Cannabis Control (DCC) had developed a strategy to issue dual licenses to existing medical marijuana operators, allowing them to serve adult consumers in the early summer of 2024. Despite opposition from some legislators and the personal disapproval of Governor Mike DeWine, the plan aimed to implement voter intent promptly, with sales possibly starting before July 4th, 2024.

On May 1st, 2024, Ohio’s lawmakers revised the state’s marijuana laws, aiming for completion in June 2024. The focus of the revisions includes the allocation of tax revenues, regulations on home growing, and restrictions on public smoking. Senate leaders expressed cautious optimism, emphasizing concerns about public health and safety. Despite initial opposition, the governor advocated for legislation to regulate hemp-derived cannabinoids and streamline recreational marijuana sales. Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House highlighted the necessity of legislative unity to effectively manage tax revenues as Ohio implemented its voter-approved recreational marijuana law.

On May 13th, 2024, Ohio lawmakers approved regulations allowing adults over 21 to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants per person, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. Sales, expected to begin by mid-June of 2024, will be subject to a 10% tax, with revenue allocated to administrative costs, addiction treatment, social equity programs, and municipal support. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries can apply for dual licenses to sell recreational marijuana, with applications available by June 7th, 2024. The program, overseen by the Division of Cannabis Control under the Ohio Department of Commerce, aims to be fully implemented by September 7th, 2024.

On June 7th, 2024, the Division of Cannabis Control (DCC) opened applications for dual licenses for existing medical dispensaries in Ohio, moving the state closer to launching recreational marijuana sales. The DCC will process applications in the order received, aiming for a quick turnaround for medical permit holders. Governor Mike DeWine, despite opposing legalization, has criticized the delay in regulated product access since voter approval last November. The legislature has struggled to agree on expediting sales, but regulatory progress continues, including recent fee eliminations for medical marijuana patient registrations.

How big is the opportunity?

A forecast from Statistica estimates Ohio marijuana sales value to reach roughly 1.3 billion dollars in 2025. With roughly 12 million residents, a limited licensing structure, and current efforts for recreational legalization, it’s evident this will be a promising state to start a cannabis business.

Local Cannabis Restrictions & Laws

Local governments cannot ban marijuana use or home cultivation and cannot tax marijuana businesses. They can, however, prohibit adult-use dispensaries, although existing medical dispensaries can challenge this through a voter referendum in the next general election. Municipalities are also not allowed to prevent existing medical cultivators or processors from producing adult-use cannabis due to their substantial investments.

Medical Marijuana Program Opportunities

In June 2016, Ohio became the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana after Gov. John Kasich signed into law H.B. 523, establishing the framework in the state. The law came into effect on September 8th, 2016. The bill can be viewed here

The passage of this law assigned three agencies to share regulatory oversight:

  • Department of Commerce to develop rules for licensing and regulating cultivators, processors, and testing labs 
  • Board of Pharmacy to oversee patient and caregiver registry and in charge of licensing retail dispensaries
  • State Medical Board to oversee physicians and issues them a “certificate to recommend”

Patients hoping to use marijuana for medicinal purposes must be 18 years of age or older, a resident of Ohio, and diagnosed with a qualifying condition such as AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and cancer. On June 9th, 2021, Huntington’s disease, terminal illness, and spasticity were added to the list. For a specific list of conditions to be eligible for a medical marijuana card in Ohio, view here

Since the program began in 2019, Ohio has witnessed 424,468 patients registered for medical marijuana as of March 31, 2024. 24,544 are patients with veteran status, 25,502 with indigent status, and 1,450 with a terminal diagnosis.

Will Ohio’s Medical Cannabis Program Continue After Legalizing Recreational Use?

Yes, the Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) will still be managed by the Division of Cannabis Control (DCC). MMCP patients and caregivers are encouraged to maintain their active status with their cards. Being a part of the MMCP ensures that patients consult a physician regarding their qualifying condition and have access to medical marijuana at existing dispensaries. Furthermore, MMCP patients won’t be charged the 10% excise tax on non-medical marijuana sales once sales of non-medical marijuana commence.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary License Application

Medical Marijuana Retail Dispensaries are permitted to acquire medical marijuana from processors and dispense or sell it to patients. To open a retail dispensary, costs include $5,000 for the application fee, $80,000 for the licensure fee, and $80,000 for the renewal fee. As of April 30, 2024, there are 123 Certificates of Operation dispensaries and 9 active provisional dispensary licenses. 

On September 19th, 2021, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and Medical Marijuana Control Program issued a request for dispensary applications, which may license up to 73 new medical marijuana dispensaries. This is preceded by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy voting on April 19, 2021, to increase the state’s current number of medical dispensaries from 57 to a total of 130. Among the reasons behind the increase are high product demand and an increase in the patient population. The board also wanted to increase access for patients who live far from current dispensaries and create more competition to drive prices down. 

According to the 2021 Request for Applications and Dispensary Application Instructions, other information that is needed for the license application process are:

  • To be considered for a dispensary license in Ohio, applications and all documents must be submitted electronically. This is available at www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov/dispensaries/.
  • Each application must include a $5,000 application fee. Applicants shall only be awarded a number of provisional dispensary licenses for which they demonstrate sufficient liquid assets in their submissions to the Board.
  • The Board will conduct a lottery to award provisional dispensary licenses.

For more information, you can check the document here

On November 18th, 2022, the application period for provisional licenses to operate medical dispensaries closed.

Other Medical Cannabis License Types

Aside from a dispensary license, there are three more cannabis business license types issued in Ohio: cultivator license, processor license, and laboratory testing license. As of October 30, 2023, 23 level I cultivator licenses, 14 level II cultivator licenses, 46 provisional processors licenses, and 10 provisional testing licenses have been granted

Medical Marijuana Cultivators are permitted to cultivate, deliver or sell medical marijuana to processors. Costs associated with a Cultivator Level 1 are $20,000 for the application fee, $180,000 for the initial licensure fee, and $200,000 for the renewal fee. For a Cultivator Level 2, $2,000 for the application fee, $18,000 for the initial licensure fee, and $20,000 for the renewal fee. The application period for the cultivator license is closed. For more information about Ohio marijuana cultivators, see here

Medical Marijuana Processors are permitted to acquire medical marijuana from cultivators, process it for dispensing, and deliver or sell it to retail dispensaries. The application fee for a processor is $10,000, the certificate of operation fee is $90,000 and the annual license renewal fee is $100,000. The application period for processor license is closed. For more information about Ohio marijuana processors, see here

Medical Marijuana Laboratories are permitted to acquire medical marijuana from licensed cannabis businesses and conduct testing on the marijuana. The application fee for the laboratory is $2,000, the certificate of operation fee is $18,000 and the laboratory annual license renewal fee is $20,000. The application period for a laboratory license is closed. For more information about Ohio marijuana dispensaries, see here.

Recreational Marijuana Program Opportunities

The Division of Cannabis Control  began accepting initial non-medical cannabis license applications on June 7th, 2024. According to the statute initiated and approved by Ohio voters, these applications are exclusively open to existing medical marijuana license holders. The available opportunities include:

  • Dual-Use Conversion
  • 10(B) Dispensary 

1. Dual-Use Conversion Application in Ohio

Eligibility

Any existing medical marijuana cultivator, processor, testing laboratory, or dispensary that wants to participate in the non-medical cannabis market at their current location must apply for a dual-use cannabis license.

Timetable

Key dates for the application process are:

  • Application Period Opens: June 7, 2024
  • Application Review Begins: June 7, 2024
  • Licenses Awarded By: September 7, 2024

Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, with priority given to cultivator, processor, and testing laboratory applications to ensure supply chain efficiency.

Application Requirements

The complete application packet includes:

  1. Fillable PDF Application Document
  2. Dual-Use Applicant Attestation
  3. Tax Authorization Form

These documents must be completed, signed, and submitted together. Each application must be specific to the facility license (e.g., separate applications for cultivator, processor, and dispensary licenses).

The application must be submitted in one of two ways:

  • Email: Submit the complete packet to DCCApplications@com.ohio.gov with the appropriate subject line.
  • State of Ohio File Drop: Use the State of Ohio File Drop, followed by an email notification to the Division.

Application Review

The DCC reviews applications in the order received. Incomplete applications will be returned for correction within 10 business days. Upon submission of a complete application, a provisional license will be issued through the DCC eLicense system.

Certificate of Operation Key Review Items

  1. Individual Badging and Background Checks:
    • All relevant individuals must have an active employee badge beginning with “CCE.”
    • Fingerprints for BCI and FBI background checks are required for those without an active badge.
  2. Point-of-Sale Updates:
    • Dispensaries must demonstrate their point-of-sale systems can handle both medical and non-medical sales, transmit sales to Metrc, and comply with tax and labeling requirements.
  3. Surveillance:
    • Compliance with published security and surveillance standards is mandatory before a Certificate of Operation is issued.
  4. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs):
    • SOPs must ensure compliance with all relevant rules and include procedures for preventing underage sales, maintaining visitor logs, and handling inventory for medical and non-medical sales.
  5. Compliance & Inspections:
    • Facilities must resolve any outstanding deficiencies, fees, or ownership changes. Inspections may be required before issuing a Certificate of Operation.
  6. Training:
    • Dispensaries must document and maintain records of staff training on dual-use sales requirements.
  7. DCC Meeting:
    • Controlling interest holders must attend a meeting with the Division, which can be conducted in-person or virtually.

2. 10(B) Dispensary Application in Ohio

10(B) dispensary licenses are intended for new dispensary locations allocated to current medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries.

Eligibility

The eligibility for 10(B) dispensary licenses is determined based on the type and status of existing medical marijuana licenses:

  • Level I Medical Marijuana Cultivators: Entities with a certificate of operation or provisional license can apply for 3 dispensary licenses per entity at designated locations.
  • Level II Medical Marijuana Cultivators: Entities with a certificate of operation or provisional license can apply for 1 dispensary license per entity at a designated location.
  • Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: Dispensaries with a certificate of operation or provisional license, without common ownership or control with any cultivator or processor, can apply for 1 dispensary license per entity at a designated location.

The Division will review records to determine eligibility and notify entities of their eligibility status and the number of licenses they can apply for.

Application Requirements

To be considered complete, the application must include:

  1. Filled PDF application document.
  2. Completed 10(B) Applicant Attestation.
  3. Completed Tax Authorization Form.
  4. $5,000 application fee payment.

The application must be submitted in one of two ways:

  1. Email Submission: Email the complete application packet to DCCApplications@com.ohio.gov.
  2. File Drop Submission: Submit the application packet via the State of Ohio File Drop and email a notification to DCCApplications@com.ohio.gov.

Initial Application Review and Drawing

Initial Application Review

Upon submission, applications will be reviewed for completeness. If incomplete, applicants will have 10 days to address deficiencies. Completed applications must be submitted by June 14, 2024, to be entered into the drawing.

Drawing Process

The drawing, conducted by the Ohio Lottery Commission on June 21, 2024, will use a Random Number Generator to assign rankings to applications. The results will be certified and posted on the Division’s website.

Phases One and Two – Site Selection

Phase One

  • Round One: Begins on July 1, 2024. Applicants submit a Facility Site Location Application indicating up to three preferred sites.
  • Review: The Division reviews site selections to ensure they are not within one mile of existing dispensaries or other proposed sites.
  • Subsequent Rounds: Additional rounds may be conducted if initial site selections are not approved.

Phase Two

  • Regional Districts: The Division will establish regional districts and allocate licenses accordingly.
  • Site Selection: Applicants submit their site selections within assigned regional districts. The review process will ensure sites are not within one mile of existing or previously approved sites.

Provisional Licensing

After site selection, the following must be demonstrated within 45 days:

  • Site Control: Ownership or active lease of the property.
  • Local Zoning Compliance: No local restrictions preventing dispensary operation.
  • Prohibited Facilities Compliance: The site must not be within 500 feet of certain prohibited facilities.

Once these requirements are met, the Division will issue a provisional license.

Important Dates

  • Application Period Opens: June 7, 2024
  • Applications Due: June 14, 2024
  • License Drawing: June 21, 2024
  • Phase One Begins: July 1, 2024
  • Phase Two Begins: Late-July, 2024
  • Licenses Awarded By: September 7, 2024

Applicants are encouraged to review the relevant Ohio Revised Code and Ohio Administrative Code sections and seek legal counsel if necessary.

FAQs

Can I convert my provisional medical marijuana license to a dual-use license?

  • No, provisional licenses cannot be converted. However, if you had a provisional license on or before December 7, 2023, you may apply for conversion once you obtain your Certificate of Operation.

What happens if my application is incomplete?

  • You will be notified of the deficiencies and have ten days to resubmit a complete application.

How will Certificates of Operation be issued?

  • Certificates will be issued in batches based on the order of complete applications, prioritizing cultivators, processors, and testing laboratories.

What preparations are needed for the Division meeting before license issuance?

  • Submit Standard Operating Procedures and financial responsibility evidence if requested. Key stakeholders must attend the meeting, which may be virtual.

Will the dual-use license have the same expiration date as the medical marijuana license?

  • For cultivators, processors, and labs: Yes. For dispensaries: Renewals will be based on the medical marijuana license issuance date.

What is a dual-use provisional license?

It is a placeholder license issued after submitting a complete application, pending fulfillment of all requirements for a Certificate of Operation.

In the upcoming weeks and through 2024, we anticipate many new events to unfold that will affect what recreational legalization will look like. By adding yourself to our Ohio Cannabis Mailing List (below), we will keep you updated on how to open a dispensary in Ohio and all relevant OH news that matters, not-so-easy-to-find news, and comments based on Ohio Legalization below.

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  • How much will it cost to open a dispensary in Ohio?
  • What are the requirements to get a marijuana business license and open a dispensary in Ohio?
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