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

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 up to date information and insights regarding the state of Ohio 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 their 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 are striving to bring an adult-use legalization measure before voters in 2023. 

On August 3rd, 2023, Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) submitted additional signatures for a marijuana legalization initiative after a previous attempt fell short. The new batch, which includes over 6,000 signatures, aims to put the initiative on the November ballot. The CTRMLA initially submitted 220,000 signatures on July 25th but was 679 short after verification. 

On August 16th, 2023, the Ohio secretary of state’s office declared that the matter of legalizing recreational marijuana will be included in Ohio’s November general election ballot. On August 24th, Ohio officials unanimously agreed on the language. The Ohio Ballot Board voted 5-0 to adopt the summary, which had been prepared by the secretary of state’s office. The summary, referred to as Issue 2, outlines the initiative’s intent to legalize and regulate various aspects of cannabis use, possession, and cultivation for adults aged 21 and above. 

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 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, led by State Representative Gary Click, are proposing 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 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. With the GOP-controlled legislature presenting varied bills and Democrats seeking to honor the initiative’s intent, Ohio navigates a complex path in its cannabis policy implementation.

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 can’t tax marijuana businesses additionally. 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 398,057 patients registered for medical marijuana as of September 30, 2023. 23,258 are patients with veteran status, 24,233 with indigent status and 1,374 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 October 30, 2023, there are 107 with Certificates of Operation dispensaries and 27 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

If you’re interested in exploring opportunities in cannabis dispensary licensing and application, here’s important information you need right now:

  • Availability of Cannabis in Ohio: Non-medical marijuana is not currently available for purchase; only registered patients or caregivers can access medical marijuana dispensaries.
  • Licensing and Sales: The Division of Cannabis Control (DCC) must create rules within nine months to implement non-medical cannabis sales. Sales can start after licenses are issued and facilities are certified.
  • Legislative Amendments: The Ohio state legislature may alter the statute, affecting its effective date and provisions.
  • License Allocation: Existing medical marijuana entities will receive non-medical licenses: cultivators, processors, testing labs, and dispensaries. Additional licenses will be issued, favoring participants in the Cannabis Social Equity and Jobs Program.
  • Cannabis Social Equity and Jobs Program: The Ohio Department of Development will establish this program, giving preference for 40 cultivator and 50 dispensary licenses to certified participants.
  • Taxes on Non-Medical Cannabis: Sales are subject to state and local taxes, plus a 10% excise tax. Revenue from this tax supports social equity and jobs programs, mental health services, local governments, and administrative costs.

As soon as new information becomes available regarding cannabis dispensary licensing and application, we will promptly revise and expand this section to reflect the latest developments and provide comprehensive details.

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.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • 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?
  • What special programs will be available?
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