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Ohio Medical Marijuana Law Blog

A look at some limitations on medical marijuana dispensaries

Given its newness, the medical marijuana industry in Ohio is being heavily regulated, and lawmakers are keeping a close eye on those who have been given licenses and certificates to conduct business in this field. This means that they are quick to act on violations, which could mean stalled business and the revocation of licenses. Therefore, those who work in the medical marijuana field in Ohio need to make sure they are in full compliance with the law.

Take, for example, what dispensaries are able to do within the bounds of their licenses. In fact, the law is written in a way that carves out exceptions to a general ban on transporting, selling and delivering marijuana. However, those carve outs are somewhat extensive. For example, a dispensary can acquire marijuana from a licensed cultivator or processor. However, a dispensary can only sell that marijuana to patients and caregivers.

Three rosins recalled, shows importance of regulatory compliance

Given the newness of Ohio's legalization of medical marijuana, a lot of kinks in the system are being worked out. This means that medical marijuana businesses that think they are operating in accordance with the law may find themselves accused of breaking it. This can have tremendous adverse effects on a business, including the imposition of fines, the loss of consumer bases and even mandatory shutdown. With so much at stake, medical marijuana businesses in Ohio need to know how to successfully navigate the various laws and regulations that relate to them.

Ohio's first mandatory medical marijuana recall serves as an example. There, three marijuana-based products were recently recalled after failing to meet certain testing standards imposed by state regulators. The products are rosin, which is resin extracted from marijuana through the use of heat and pressure. However, independent testing found that the products in question failed to meet state standards for mold, yeast and other contaminants, which regulators believe could put consumers at risk.

Ohio's law on inspection of marijuana cultivators

Although medical marijuana is legal in Ohio and other states across the country, it is heavily regulated to ensure patients are receiving effective and safe products. Therefore, all businesses in the medical marijuana supply chain must adhere to all state laws. Failure to do so can result in serious penalties, including revocation of the licenses or certificates that are necessary to conduct business in this field.

For example, under Ohio law marijuana cultivators can be subjected to inspection at any time with or without notice. These inspections, which can be conducted in conjunction with just about any state agency or local law enforcement, can be thorough, too. All records maintained by the business can be reviewed and copied, and the inspector is allowed to access any area of the premises. Vehicles utilized by the business can be inspected, and so, too, can all equipment. Inspectors can also question employees and take marijuana samples for testing purposes.

Is your medical marijuana business ready for success?

Opening and operating a business is a difficult endeavor and not for the faint of heart. Businessmen or women have to contend with a lot of paperwork in the process of putting up their business and ensuring that the best people are hired as employees. In the medical marijuana industry, however, this process is even more complicated as there are a number of administrative agencies and policies to comply with, from everything to entity creation to employee hiring. Even hiring or firing someone can become a cause to lose one's license, if people are not careful.

The state and administrative agencies in Ohio that should be complied with are the Ohio Department of Commerce, the Pharmacy Board and the Medical Board. Businesses not only have to meet the requirements they set forth, but also keep up with them. Unfortunately, given the way policies change in the industry, this can become a complicated task.

What are the basics of the Ohio medical marijuana program?

Patients suffering from chronic conditions with no respite from pain likely rejoiced the day that medical marijuana was approved in Ohio. Twenty-one conditions were approved initially in Ohio, ranging from cancer, glaucoma, seizures and AIDS to Alzheimer's, Crohn's Disease and Parkinson's disease. New conditions have to be approved by the State Medical Board of Ohio and many readers of this blog may remember the process that was underway during the summer to add to the list.

Though it is possible to add new qualifying conditions to the list, the process is complicated by the fact that there is dispute about whether a condition can be removed once added to the list. Petitions should include relevant medical or scientific evidence, letters of support provided by physicians, information from experts who study the disease and considerations as to whether traditional medical therapies are incapable of alleviating the condition. Once a petition has been rejected, it cannot be reviewed until new scientific evidence backs the request.

Does vaping illness have your dispensary on the defensive?

Like many in the medical marijuana business, you may be watching the news lately as stories emerge concerning the illnesses and deaths caused by vaping. Vaping, the use of electronic cigarettes, is popular for many as an alternative to smoking. While the jury is out on whether vaping is actually safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes, you and others in your industry know vaping is an effective way for patients to administer medical marijuana.

Nevertheless, the investigations into the recent vaping-related illnesses and deaths seem to be focusing on the use of cannabis substances in e-cig devices. Over a thousand people across the country have fallen seriously ill with mysterious lung ailments after using vaping devices, many of which seem to have contained cannabis products. What does this mean for your industry?

Major obstacles to medical marijuana affecting market

The first medical marijuana dispensary in Ohio opened in January and seven months in, cardholders are not satisfied with the way the program is operating. According to an online survey that 640 patients responded to, almost 50% stated they were very dissatisfied with the program and only around 4% said they were very satisfied. However, given that there are 52,000 medical marijuana cardholders in the state, it can only be considered an important snapshot of the situation, not a complete picture.

There is no doubt that medical marijuana prices in the state continue to remain high. Given that only a fraction of the proposed dispensaries have opened so far, prices haven't fallen to a competitive one yet. Additionally, companies are still trying to recoup their setting up costs, which is prices remain high. However, customers who were previously paying less than nine dollars on the street illegally are now facing prices of more than 18 dollars-a hundred percent premium. The high costs are also preventing patients from mixing up strains and products to see what works for them. Some are worried that the prices will discourage the very people the program was intended to work for-those who could easily access the drug illegally.

What are marijuana company ownership rules in Ohio?

Medical marijuana licenses are strictly controlled in Ohio, making the program different from others in the country. Other states saw applicants submitting great applications and gave them provisional licenses that they would then sell. Ohio is attempting to prevent that from happening here, which is why ownership rules are strictly regulated.

A dispensary holder cannot sell their license until the dispensary has been open for a year. The person who is buying a medical marijuana license in the state has to go through the same criminal background and credit check as the original applicant. This is to ensure that only quality operators own and operate licenses and continue to follow the relevant rules. Lastly, many may not know that marijuana businesses can only sell the operating license, not the provisional license. An operating license is granted once inspectors believe that the company completed its promises in the application. This means they can sell the license to open the dispensary, cultivator and processor, but not to set up shop.

Noncompliance with state law can affect business license

Running a business is difficult enough in today's economic climate, but add to it an ever-changing landscape and it can become even more complicated. The marijuana business is heavily regulated with complex rules that are constantly evolving. Add to that the fact that rules differ from state to state and there is a completely different code of federal laws applicable as well. All this can be complicated for someone trying to run a business in the industry, in an attempt to help ailing individuals get relief from the symptoms from which they suffer.

Despite all the complications in the industry, missteps and mistakes are often heavily penalized. This means that any one misstep can mean an operating license is denied. Even when it has been granted, heavy competition in the state means that maintaining the license is crucial to keeping it. As mentioned previously on this blog, Ohio companies have been found violating state dispensary laws for behaviors such as hiring someone without notifying the necessary agencies.

Is CBD the same as medical marijuana?

A recent move in Ohio to separate hemp from state drug laws caused confusion in the state, with many claiming recreational marijuana had become legal in the state. However, this was not the case, as officials explained-industrial hemp and products made from its active ingredient, cannabidiol, have been legalized only. Ohio is one of the last states to legalize hemp.

Hemp and marijuana are similar in that they share the same genus-CBD-but they are from different species. Hemp has become popular because of CBD, which has medicinal qualities but lacks the tetrahydrocannabinol that produces the high. Hemp only has 0.3 percent of THC.

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