Amid excitement, confusion and now delay, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Program, Ohio HB 523, has possibly been pushed back beyond it's supposed "legal" start date of September 2018. Last week, the Ohio Dept. of Commerce released a new deadline for cultivation licenses to be announced - now they say "by November 2017". According to both Justin Hunt, the COO of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Program and Kerry Francis, the spokeswoman for the Commerce Department, said the department received 185 applications that were 200 pages long. They mentioned this number of applications flooded the department staff and they never gave a firm date of when they would be awarded. Based on other states approval process across the US, many had originally thought it was only going to take 90 days and should have been awarded in September of 2017.
Now doubts arise if construction and facilities can even be built and operational by that date with a shortened window of approval, leaving only 9 short months. Some cultivating businesses may have to start from the ground up, building a physical facility, acquiring local zoning permits and passing inspections, before they can even begin growing pot. Others have an easier path by utilizing existing facilities.
Tom Haren, a Westlake attorney who advised cultivator applicants, said applicants building multi-million dollar indoor growing facilities on vacant land won't likely get much accomplished during Ohio's winter months, he also mentioned that no one is going to start building without a license in hand. "These large-scale cultivation entities are sophisticated operations," Haren said. "There are a lot of moving parts and they're very expensive."
After the plant is harvested, it will have to be tested at a state testing lab or sent to a processor to be turned into an oil or other product and then tested before it can be sold. Ohio law limits testing to public institutions of higher education for the first year. Hunt did say that if no schools step up that they will move forward with private labs to keep the program on track & operational by September 2018. As of this writing, Dr. Jonathan Cachat of CCV Research has come to an agreement with an Ohio school to commence lab testing. The name of the school has not been released at this time.
The commerce department is currently reviewing cultivator applications through a panel of state employees in and outside of the department, a department spokeswoman said. Hunt declined Thursday to give details about the scoring panel.
The department has also contracted with three consulting firms to advise on specific parts of the applications: Meade & Wing of Arizona, iCann Consulting of Ohio and B&B Grow Solutions of Illinois.
The Commerce Department did say they could also award them any time before November, so it may come as a surprise to many when they are in fact awarded & announced prior to the new deadline.