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Ohio Medical Marijuana Law Blog

Let's look at the law on dispensary access and security

If you know anything about the medical marijuana industry in Ohio, then you know that the state keeps a tight leash on all operations. Cultivators, processors and dispensaries are all subject to strict laws. Failure to abide by those laws can result in a medical marijuana business's license or certification being revoked, thereby rendering them unable to conduct business operations. Considering the financial opportunities available in this market, closing down shop due to legal noncompliance can be quite costly.

Although there are a number of laws dictating how a medical marijuana dispensary should operate, the state even proscribes how dispensaries must be maintained when closed. Under Ohio law, every medical marijuana dispensary must be equipped with an alarm system that is approved by the board of pharmacy. Additionally, access to a dispensary must be limited to key employees, 24-hour surveillance must be implemented and medical marijuana must be locked in a way that is approved by the state, which, by law, must be a safe or a vault.

A look at 2019's medical marijuana sales figures

The first year of legal medical marijuana sales in Ohio has come to an end. The volume of sales may be surprising to some, but not those who are already embroiled in the medical marijuana business. According to the state, 46 dispensaries were opened last year with sales totaling about $56 million. This equates to nearly 7,000 pounds of marijuana sold and more than 280,000 products containing marijuana or its derivatives. More than 50,000 individuals bought medical marijuana in some form in 2019, which may seem like a lot, but that leaves nearly 25,000 individuals who are approved to buy medical marijuana who did not make any purchases.

While the overall sales figures are lower than initial projections, this market still shows enormous potential. Single sales averaged $129, and those who purchased medical marijuana last year spent, on average, more than $1,000 over the course of the year. As acceptance of this new legal reality continues to increase, this industry will likely see exponential growth.

Ohio heavily restricts medical marijuana advertising

If you have any knowledge of or experience with the medical marijuana industry here in Ohio, then you know that just about every aspect of it is subjected to some type of law, regulation or rule. Cultivators, dispensaries and laboratories must all meet certain state-imposed measures. Failing to do so can result in a business being subjected to penalties that can be so serious as to stop operations altogether. For this reason, medical marijuana businesses need to make sure they know how to stay on the right side of the law and use it to their advantage when allegations of wrongdoing arise.

One area of this field where businesses need to be especially careful is advertising. Ohio law dictates that medical marijuana advertising must refrain from creating an impression that marijuana use in general is legal. Marijuana use is only legal as provided under the medical marijuana statutes. Advertising also must not give the impression that marijuana use outside of medical purposes is acceptable in any way. This means that a medical marijuana business cannot claim that recreational use has health benefits or that it is legal.

To work with marijuana, you must know your stuff

Only a few years after legalization, medical marijuana is providing health benefits to many across Ohio who formerly had to travel to neighboring states to find relief from chronic pain as well as symptoms of such approved conditions as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer and others. If you have experience in agriculture, you may be considering whether you could play a role in the burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

However, experience is not enough. Each phase of a medical marijuana business is carefully regulated by state standards, and the risk of serious consequences for noncompliance is great. It is important that you learn as much as possible not only about growing marijuana but also about the laws and the business surrounding the industry.

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?

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