To date, in Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program, only 10 of the 19 Level 1 cultivator permittees, 10 of the 14 Level II cultivators and 19 of the 45 processor permittees have been deemed operational. Of the 57 dispensary permittees, 51 have been deemed operational and there are three laboratories that have received operational status. But Ohio still has approximately 110,000 patients and 12,000 caregivers who have purchased $142.7 million in medical marijuana products.
Ohio’s medical marijuana program lags behind those in other states. The lag seems to be linked to Ohio’s penchant for litigation and its reluctance to approve certain qualifying medical conditions, such as anxiety, autism and opioid use disorder. Since medical marijuana was legalized more than four years ago, Ohio has only approved one additional condition that may be treated by medical marijuana — cachexia (wasting syndrome).
Plus, Ohio’s program has been slowed due to lawsuits. Initially, the state was stymied by lawsuits as a result of its residency requirement and its requirement that a certain percentage of licenses be granted to minority-owned businesses. More recently, the state and local municipalities have both embroiled medical marijuana permittees in suits that have delayed openings of dispensaries across the state, frustrating operators and patients.
On other, related fronts, Ohio is still wrestling with the possibility of decriminalization and adult-use legalization. The Ohio Legislature is considering various criminal justice reforms and in June the Senate passed a bill that would double the amount of marijuana in someone’s possession that would be considered a civil violation instead of a criminal misdemeanor charge. Additionally, the battle continues to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Sensible Movement Coalition (SMC) was initially stalled from obtaining the required physical signatures needed to put an adult-use initiative on the November ballot. Then a federal district judge allowed the SMC to collect the required ballot signatures via electronic means, only to have a panel of judges on the 6th Circuit reverse the decision. The SMC is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On the mergers and acquisition front, Ohio has not received a lot of enthusiasm. Whether it is because of Ohio’s slow start, low patient counts, litigation woes or its unwillingness to approve important additional conditions, Ohio has not seen the level of interest from firms looking to acquire marijuana businesses that other states have seen.
Judith D. Cassell | Cannabis Law PA
Judith Cassel is no stranger to hard work and a competitive environment – staples of the cannabis industry. The youngest of 5 girls growing up on a farm in Hershey, PA, she was a walk-on for Penn State’s Track and Field team ending up as a 5-time Penn State record holder and NCAA Division I All-American. She later worked for Mobil Oil where she earned the prestigious “Pegasus Elite” award. She graduated in the top 25% of her law school while raising two children, running her own $10 million company, and training to qualify for the Olympics in the marathon.
Judith Cassel applies this same energy and work ethic to her medical marijuana law practice. She is a partner at Hawke McKeon & Sniscak and heads up its Cannabis Law practice area (https://cannabislawpa.com/). Judith is the Co-Vice Chair of the Pennsylvania Bar’s Medical Marijuana Committee and a member of the National Cannabis Association. Having an MBA and a business background, Judith represents clients in all aspects of their cannabis businesses from applications, litigation, acquisitions, financing, regulatory compliance, and contracting. Judith also believes passionately in helping patients access medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids and is currently representing such a client, Mary Cease, in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, pro bono. Judith and her firm’s other Cannabis attorneys (Kevin McKeon, Micah Bucy, Melissa Chapaska, and Mariah Turner) practice in states throughout the Northeast United States.