Ohio’s medical marijuana program is unique in several respects. At this point, there is no indication that dispensaries will be required to operate as non-profits, which has been common in other medical states. Also, ownership interests in marijuana entities will not be limited to Ohio residents. Though these provisions provide flexibility, Ohio’s laws are fairly restrictive in other respects. For example, patients will not be allowed to smoke marijuana; they instead will be compelled to rely on edibles, vapors, tinctures, and other non-smokable forms of marijuana. Ohio is also implementing caps on the amount of THC in marijuana (35% for “plant material” and 70% for extracts) and it is also considering implementing a “closed loop” medical marijuana payment system. This closed loop cannabis payment system is intended to address what has been a major thorn in the side of cannabis businesses: the lack of reliable banking for cannabis businesses. Ohio cannabis patients would receive preloaded cards to use at state-licensed dispensaries. The Ohio Department of Commerce is considering this proposed payment method.
One of the more interesting aspects of Ohio cannabis is its attempt to promote diversity in its cannabis industry. The state plans to issue 15% of available cultivator, processor, laboratory, or retail licenses to entities “owned and controlled” by United States citizens who are residents of Ohio and who “are members of one of the following economically disadvantaged groups: Blacks or African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics or Latinos, and Asians.” If there are no applications or an insufficient number of applications submitted by such cannabis entities, the licenses will issue in accordance with department rules. “Owned and controlled” means “at least fifty-one percent of the business, including corporate stock if a corporation, is owned by persons who belong to one or more of the [foregoing groups], and those owners have control over the management and day-to-day operations of the business and an interest in the capital, assets, and profits and losses of the business proportionate to their percentage of ownership.” This unique approach could address the often noted lack of diversity in the cannabis industry.