House Bill 523 Update

House Bill 523, which proposed the legalization of medical marijuana for qualifying Ohio residents, passed in September 2016. The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) has spent almost two-years attempting to put together a well-functioning model for the program to follow, but with the deadline coming up this September, lots of questions are being raised about the new program’s progress and if it will even be in operation by the time of deadline. Some exciting developments have been going on within the industry, but with time running out and so much left to be decided, state regulators have big hurdles ahead of them if they hope to get this lucrative industry off the ground this year. With an estimated 230,000 residents who meet the criteria for eligibility, the state has a promising opportunity to build one of biggest medical marijuana markets in the country.
The acceptance and embrace of marijuana, and all of benefits it has to offer, are creating progress and opportunity in our country and it’s rapidly growing into one of the United States’ most successful industries. If the state regulators can get their proposal into action before their two-year deadline is up, Ohio’s dense population of eligible patients is expected to create one of the U.S.’s most successful markets in the industry, within its first full year.
There are some huge gaps that need filled before Ohio can operate a legal marijuana market. One of the biggest concerns that remain unresolved is who will be awarded licenses to process, test, recommend and dispense medical marijuana across Ohio. Late last year, the state held an application acceptance period for businesses and investors seeking to obtain a license in Ohio’s new marijuana industry. So far, state regulators have announced the 24 applicants who were awarded the available licenses to legally cultivate marijuana in the state, but licenses in the other fields still haven’t been issued.
Doctors who want to be certified to recommend the drug to their patients must complete two hours of training. A physician certification is essential to sustain a medical cannabis market. However, doctors are hesitant to obtain their certification because prescribing cannabis violates federal policy and can jeopardize their federal license to prescribe drugs and even face prosecution for prescribing a Schedule I substance.
At some point before MMCP becomes operational, an online service will become available to eligible patients so that they can register online for a medical marijuana card, which will come with a $50 fee. Patients who are approved for medical marijuana must have one of 26 qualifying conditions and have doctor’s recommendation. A final date hasn’t been set for when the registry will be open.
The last link in Ohio’s legal cannabis supply chain is testing the final products. Testing facilities are responsible for checking products for hazards and verify the level of THC in the products they’re testing. Ohio’s law originally required that a state-based university or college handle the testing, but those rules changed recently after Hocking College and Central State showed interest in making their schools licensed testing facilities.
With a Sept. 8 deadline to have the Medical Marijuana Control Program fully up and running, state regulators and countless business owners are currently in a race against time. Businesses that aren’t up and running by the deadline could lose their right to operate in Ohio. It’s hard to predict exactly how this will all play out, but from what we’ve seen, Ohio is following through with its plan, but there’s always the possibility for delays.