Regardless of your opinion on marijuana, there’s no denying that it’s become one of the most lucrative industries in the country in recent years. It’s also created many new jobs and opportunities for lots of Americans. Last year, the industry raked in over 9 billion dollars in sales and employed over 120,000 people.
Ohio jumped on board in 2016, joining the 30 other states who have legalized marijuana for medical use. Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is projected to be fully operational by September of this year. So, what exactly does this mean for Ohioans and for the states economy? More jobs and more revenue of course.
It’s been reported that about 24% of Ohio’s 11.6-million-person population will qualify for the state’s MMCP program. The program is estimated to generate as much as 400 million dollars in sales in its first year, according to Marijuana Business Daily. By that estimate, it would bring in an estimated 23 million dollars in tax revenue. If sales reach these heights, this would put Ohio as one of the top marijuana markets in the country. The actual revenue the industry will create depends on what rules and regulations are set in place for businesses and physicians, and how many patients sign up for the program. Ohio has the opportunity to be a powerhouse in the medical marijuana industry because unlike most states, pain is included as a qualifying medical condition.
The Department of Commerce and State Board of Pharmacy have already borrowed 1.8 million dollars from the Ohio Controlling Panel, a budget panel that oversees the state’s spending, to get the new medical marijuana program off the ground, and the state expects to spend at least 2.5 million annually to run it. These estimates are attributed to the costs of hiring 17 new enforcement agents at the Ohio Department of Commerce and Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, and to office expenses for the two agencies.
However, once the state awards all of the initial business licenses, MMCP is projected to generate 10.8 million dollars a year in licensing fees alone. Additional fees are expected to bring in a few more million annually. The anticipated license fees would generate 2.64 million dollars a year from cultivators, $4 million from product processors, and $4.2 million from dispensaries. The program is also granted to keep all application fees from denied applicants. Simply submitting an application required a non-refundable $20,000 fee from large growers, $2,000 for small growers, $10,000 from processors and $5,000 from dispensaries. In addition, testing labs, which, at the time, are limited to university and state college campuses for the opening year, have an annual fee of $20,000 and businesses are required to pay fees to train employees, register strains of medical marijuana, and register products.
Marijuana businesses will pay state taxes, the same way any other Ohio business would, but those taxes won’t be used to fund the program. Any extra revenue the new program brings in is required to be put back into the community and spent on things like improving public education, road developments that reduce traffic, and increasing the Social Security and Medicare benefits for our seniors. Not only is the plant beneficial to the patients who use it, it greatly benefits our community as a whole.
Not only will the marijuana industry create millions of dollars in tax revenue and serve as an extremely beneficial medicine to patients, it also decreases government spending. It’s estimated that federal and state governments still spend over $20 billion a year on the prohibition of marijuana. In addition to burdening our justice system and wasting law enforcement’s time, it also causes otherwise harmless citizens to tarnish their criminal record and forces taxpayers to pay $125 a day to keep marijuana offenders incarcerated. Patients will also be able to buy their cannabis from licensed and trusted businesses, rather than funding the operation of criminal organizations. This program offers an opportunity to turn billions of black market dollars into taxable revenues.
Overall, the taxed and well-regulated medical cannabis program that has been proposed is certain to create numerous economic benefits to state and local governments. These systems have already been tried and proven in over 30 states and their reward is plentiful. Ohio has nothing to lose and everything to gain from the legalization of medical marijuana.