Rules set for Ohio's tightly regulated medical marijuana program
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- State regulators writing the rules for Ohio's new medical marijuana program wrapped up their work Monday, one month ahead of the statutory deadline.
The result: A tightly regulated program that will start small, with the ability to grow as more patients sign up.
Rules and regulations for medical marijuana stores, product manufacturers and testing labs; doctors, patients and caregivers were among those that cleared the Ohio legislature's Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review on Monday without objection from the panel. The rules officially take effect in August.
Ohio legislators passed the medical marijuana law in late May 2016, but it will likely be more than a year before patients can walk into a dispensary and buy their medicine.
The law established a framework for the program that established 21 qualifying medical conditions and a two-year time line for rolling out the program. The law also doesn't allow smoking marijuana or growing it at home.
Details such as who will grow and sell marijuana and how much patients can buy, were left to the Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and Ohio State Medical Board.
Like the cultivator rules, the regulations approved Monday did not significantly change from when they were introduced several months ago.
Patients and caregivers
Patients will be registered by physicians with whom they have a bona fide relationship. Patients will pay a $50 annual registration fee, discounted 50 percent for veterans and people receiving federal disability assistance.
Patients can only possess a 90-day supply of medical marijuana products at any one time. The pharmacy board increased this amount from 6 ounces to 8 ounces of marijuana or marijuana products containing the equivalent amount of THC, a compound in cannabis that generate a "high."
Ohio is the first of the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana to calculate limits this way.
Patients could mix and match products but each amount added together could not exceed a total 90-day supply. So if a patient bought 70 days worth of plant material, he or she could not buy more than 20 days worth of vaping oils or edibles.
Patients can dedicate up to two caregivers to buy medical marijuana on their behalf, and caregivers can serve up to two patients except in hospice and other situations allowed by the pharmacy board. Caregivers will pay a $25 fee per application.
Processors and dispensaries
The commerce department will license up to 40 processors to make marijuana oils, patches, topical lotions, capsules and edibles. Processors will pay a $10,000 application fee and, if awarded a license, a $90,000 fee, renewable each year for $100,000.
The state will license up to 60 dispensaries statewide -- more than the initial 40 proposed -- to sell marijuana products and plant material for vaporizing. The pharmacy board last week released a draft plan to distribute those licenses by population that shows many rural and suburban counties would not have one dispensary.
Dispensary applicants will have to pay a $5,000 application fee and a $70,000 license fee every other year.
The state can license additional processors and dispensaries after Sept. 8, 2018 to meet patient demand.
Like cultivators, dispensary and processor licensees will have to submit extensive security, financial and operational plans, including how they will safely transport marijuana to the next stop in the supply chain.
Cultivators, processors and dispensaries must be located at least 500 feet from schools, playgrounds, libraries and churches.
Ohio physicians will have to take two hours of continuing education courses and register with the state medical board in order to recommend marijuana to patients. Doctors are required to explain the benefits and risks of medical marijuana to patients before issuing a recommendation.