Skeptics question whether medical marijuana will meet September deadline
Ohio's medical marijuana program legally must be operating by September 8th but some industry insiders have questioned whether that will happen.
"We're still outstanding with dispensary license, testing license and processing license," said Tim Johnson with the Ohio Cannabis Chamber of Commerce. "We still need a security system bid that has to be passed."
Johnson has been consulting with medical marijuana businesses trying to set up in Ohio. He said there's too much work left to be done for medical cannabis to be available by the deadline.
"Being real and honest with ourselves, I don't see that happening," he said.
More licenses still need to be awarded and all medical marijuana facilities must pass a state inspection. Johnson said many of them will have to go through additional city or county inspections as well.
"We're not just building warehouses or remodeling a storefront to sell floral plants, to move boxes around a warehouse. These are actual medical facilities," he said.
The Ohio Department of Commerce is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the program. It said the program remained on schedule.
"It certainly had its bumps but it's definitely on track," said Thomas Rosenberger, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio. “There may not be every licensee, all 24 cultivators, all 40 processors ready to go on that date but we’re very confident that there will be product on the shelves. It’s a very tight, very aggressive timeline so I think a lot of those concerns come from the fact there likely will be some licensees that don’t meet that deadline but that doesn’t mean every licensee isn’t going to.”
Rosenberger said Ohio was creating "the most highly-regulated industry in the state from scratch". Academics who have studied medical marijuana programs across the country have said it's a process no state has perfected.
"There's been steady progress," said Douglas Berman at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. "There will I believe be some stores open this fall. I think more stores will open progressively and there will definitely take time to get the kinks out."
Rosenberger said there are ways to grow medical-grade marijuana in only eight weeks. Johnson said he's skeptical of that method. Traditionally it takes four to five months.
Patients will not be allowed to get medical marijuana from another state and bring it to Ohio because marijuana remains an illegal drug according to federal law. Ohio's law requires the cannabis to be grown in the state so Ohio dispensaries won't be able to sell marijuana grown elsewhere either.