© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Health, Science & Environment

Ohio adult-use marijuana sales approved as part of 2023 ballot measure could begin by mid-June

Marijuana buds ready for harvest rest on a plant at AT-Calyx Peak Companies of Ohio, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Akron, Ohio.
Tony Dejak
Marijuana buds ready for harvest rest on a plant at AT-Calyx Peak Companies of Ohio, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Akron, Ohio.

Recreational marijuana could be available for sale in Ohio by mid-June, after new licensing rules for dispensaries cleared a key legislative hurdle Monday.

Adult-use sales have been in limbo in the state since December, when an initiated statute approved by voters went into effect. Ohioans over 21 were immediately able to legally grow and possess cannabis at home, but they had nowhere to legally buy it — prompting concern by Gov. Mike DeWine and some fellow Republicans in the Legislature that openings would be created for a black market.

On Monday, the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review allowed rules to proceed without objection that clear the way for a dual licensing program that will allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to also sell non-medical pot products. Jim Canepa, superintendent of the Division of Cannabis Control, said applications will be available by no later than June 7, as the new law requires.

“I don't want to give anyone false hopes," he told reporters, when asked whether applications might even be available before then. “We're following the timeline in the initiated statute. We have a small but mighty staff, but there's (a) bandwidth (issue) there.”

Canepa didn't want to speculate on how long approval of each application might take, saying it will depend on the circumstances.

But Tom Haren, spokesperson for Ohio Cannabis Coaltion and a key backer of last fall's ballot effort, said dispensary operators will be ready right away. He said the Division of Cannabis Control has been ”working tirelessly” over the last several months to meet the deadlines laid out in the law for getting the program up and running, and his members have been trying to match their speed.

“Our members have obviously been anticipating the rollout of adult-use sales," he said. “They've been working on getting processes in place, making whatever changes they need to to procedures. We're really excited.”

Haren said he anticipates most of Ohio's existing dispensaries will apply to be dual licensees, allowing them to sell both medical and recreational products.

Canepa said this is one of several rules packages that must be created to fully implement the program by the final deadline, which is Sept. 7. The new law allows adults 21 and over to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to grow up to six plants per individual or 12 plants per household at home. It gave the state nine months to set up a system for legal marijuana purchases, subject to a 10% tax. Sales revenue is to be divided between administrative costs, addiction treatment, municipalities with dispensaries, paying for social equity and jobs programs supporting the cannabis industry itself.

Republican state Rep. Jamie Callendar, a long-time supporter of legalizing adult-use cannabis, said the speed with which Cannabis Control, a division of the Ohio Department of Commerce, is gearing up the program validates his contention last year that working through the rules process was better than passing a swiftly negotiated legislative package.

DeWine and the Republican-led Ohio Senate struck a deal at the 11th hour on a sweeping rewrite of what voters had approved, angering the issue’s backers and alarming both parties in the House.

The bill the Senate passed would have outlawed growing at home, cut the allowable amount of pot that can be possessed to 1 ounce and raised taxes on purchases to 15%. It would also have eliminated tax revenue funding for social equity programs supporting the marijuana industry and direct most of the tax money raised to a general state government fund. But the House adjourned without taking a vote.

Callender said legislation will still no doubt be needed to address several issues “not inconsistent with what voters voted on,” such as child safety packaging, prohibiting marketing cannabis to kids, and assuring business owners are protected.

“I think at this point we've gotten past a lot of the fears that many of the senators and the Governor's Office had originally, and we've gotten to the point where they're saying, ‘Oh, this is going to work,’” he said.

Health, Science & Environment Marijuana