Medical Marijuana in Ohio: Where are We Now?

More than a year has passed since Governor Kasich signed House Bill 523, legalizing medical marijuana (MMJ) in Ohio and making our state the 25th to adopt such a program. At the time, those interested in getting involved — as a cultivator, processor, dispensary, or physician — had little information on exactly what the program would look like from a practical and economic standpoint.

Rules and regulation are now being created by the Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), part of the Ohio Department of Commerce that regulates Ohio’s MMJ program.

Over the past year, the MMCP developed rules for the program, but not without overhauling them several times – often in response to public comment and hearings held in Columbus, Ohio. Based on these rules, here are some “must knows” for anyone thinking about starting MMJ operations:


Cultivators grow cannabis for later production into medicine. There are two levels of cultivators: Level 1 may grow from 25,000 to 75,000 square feet of cannabis; Level 2 may grow from 3,000 to 9,000 square feet of cannabis. The MMCP received a total of 185 applications: 109 (Level 1) and 76 (Level 2). Cultivators also have the difficult task of selecting a growing space that qualifies under the rules: 1.) Cannot be closer than 500 feet to any school, public park, library, and other facilities; 2.) Has the blessing of the municipality, which is permitted to opt-out of the program.

Cultivators are the first group to receive a final set of rules and the application for submission to the MMCP. Applications were due in June, 2017. Cultivators will not know whether they are granted a license until November, 2017, and they are required to begin cultivation within nine months of obtaining a license.


Processors extract oils from the plant material that have a medicinal effect on the patient. The extracted oils — Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) — can be placed into a variety of consumer productions such as vape cartridges, transdermal patches, edibles, capsules, topical ointments and tinctures, which are used to treat the symptoms of many diseases and conditions.

Processors received a final set of regulations in August, which were effective September 8, 2017. Applications will be due later this fall.


Unlike cultivators and processors, dispensary licenses will be divided up among the various regions created by the MMCP. For example, Cuyahoga County will have up to five dispensaries. Dispensary rules were also finalized in August and made effective September 8, 2017. Applications are due November 17, 2017.

Among other requirements, physicians must obtain a certification from the Ohio Medical Board in order to recommend (not prescribe) MMJ to patients that suffer from one or more of the 24 qualifying diseases and conditions.

Until patients can receive legal recommendations from their physicians under the Ohio program, criminal charges for possession of the drug is subject to the affirmative defense granted to patients by House Bill 523.

Looking forward

There is still a lot of work for the MMCP to meet its September 8, 2018 deadline. Cultivators have to build-out their facilities and get plants under lights and harvested. Then the processing and dispensing can begin. It is going to be tight – particularly with licenses for facilities to do the required testing of the cannabis products not coming available until July of 2018. We will continue to keep you apprised as the program develops. In the meantime, please contact me at (216) 453-5906 with questions.

Helpful links:

-Click here to read Mansour Gavin’s June 2016 Article on MMJ in Ohio, “Canna-business.”

-To be directed to the official medical marijuana website for the State of Ohio click here.

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