Five months away from the deadline for the new medical marijuana industry operations in Ohio, state regulators are managing expectations and redefining what “operational” will look like on Sept. 8.
“We have to temper our view of what this program will look like on Day One,” said Ohio Department of Commerce Director Jacqueline Williams on Thursday to the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee.
Leaders from commerce as well as the medical board and pharmacy board – the three agencies overseeing the new program — cautioned that patients will have access to safe, tested medical marijuana on September 8th but it’ll be limited.
They laid out an aggressive, compressed timeline to meet the Sept. 8 deadline:
April 11: state Medical Board is expected to approve the first set of doctors who will be allowed to recommend medical marijuana to patients;
April 23: commerce officials will request more funding from the state Controlling Board;
May: the first labs at public colleges will be licensed; up to 57 dispensaries will be licensed; and state inspections will begin at cultivator sites.
June: a toll-free hotline will go live; patient registry will open; private labs will be licensed;
June or early summer: processors will be licensed;
Mid-August: labs need to be operational.
“I’m quite frankly concerned about the timeline. This is not something we build on an assembly line, it’s a plant,” said Tony Coder, a member of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee on Thursday.
Another committee member asked if Ohio could obtain medical marijuana from another state in case Ohio can’t meet the September 8 deadline. Federal law still considers marijuana an illegal controlled substance.
Mark Hamlin, senior policy advisor to the program, said “There is no doubt that it’s a tight time frame and there’s not doubt there are factors out of our control. We are, and I say this across the three entities part of this program, we are confident in the Sept. 8 deadline.”
The program is facing three lawsuits and appeals from some 70 applicants who did not win any of the 24 cultivator licenses announced late last year.
Another complication: commerce officials discovered an error in the scoring process that inappropriately bumped an applicant out of the winner’s list. The department is expected to hire an outside auditor to double check scores and suggest improvements to the process – something that will be done before processor licenses are announced.