It has been three months since The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced the 56 winning applicants for provisional licenses to open medical marijuana dispensaries, and construction should now be well underway. From architectural planning and design for construction permitting, through the build-out and procurement of security and other physical equipment, medical marijuana dispensaries have hands full and eyes trained on the earliest implementation date possible.
Ohio law requires that the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program be fully operational by September 8, 2018, and while the program is in fact operational at this time, marijuana product is still in the maturation process. According to Stephanie Gostomski, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Commerce, which oversees cultivators, processors and testing facilities, “We have always said this entire time that it is a very tight process and a very tight deadline, but most importantly, we need to do things right. By doing it right, the focus is on the patients getting a safe product.”
For seasoned medical marijuana companies like 127 OH, LLC d/b/a/ Bloom Medicinals, which was awarded the maximum number of licenses available to a single applicant and will be opening dispensaries in five cities, delays are a normal part of the process. “We have already completed architectural plans and started the permitting process for our dispensary locations in Painesville, Maumee and Columbus, and we are working with officials from the Village of Seven Mile and the City of Akron, all of whom have been very supportive,” said Nicole van Rensburg, Bloom Medicinals CEO. Van Rensburg is also a Partner of Midwest Compassion Center, a medical cannabis dispensary in Romeoville.
Regardless of the production schedule and availability of medical marijuana product from Ohio’s growers and processors, Bloom Medicinals intends to open its dispensaries as soon as they are completed. “In addition to final inspection by Board of Pharmacy and other regulatory officials, we also invite authorized state and local law enforcement officials to tour our facilities, learn about our operations, meet our local team and answer any questions they may have,” said RJ Starr, Bloom’s Director of Compliance. “This usually allays common concerns we find in new markets, as officials are introduced to a level of professionalism, compliance and security they may not have previously considered present in the medical cannabis industry.
Through a process of evaluation of eligibility, compliance and application scoring, successful Ohio medical marijuana dispensary applicants are first awarded a provisional license, which grants them leave to complete the build-out of their dispensary. Upon completion of the build-out, the Board of Pharmacy or other authorized state regulatory agents conduct a final inspection, evaluating compliance with every element of the program, including facility design, security systems, patient education programs, employee licensing and training programs, technology integration with state inventory tracking and drug reporting systems, substance abuse programs, and more. Officials will evaluate a dispensary’s policies and standard operating procedures, as well as its safety and contingency plans. Upon completion of successful inspection, the dispensary can then receive medical marijuana product from licensed Ohio growers and processors for distribution to qualifying registered patients in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Program.
“We understand patients have waited a long time and are anxious for the program and the products to become available to them,” said Bloom Medicinal’s van Rensburg. “We operate as a ‘3-C’ culture: Compliance, Compassion and Community, and while we understand delays are inevitable, we are going to do everything we can to get our doors open as soon as possible, and be ready for both our patients, and our new community.”
This article first appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September 5, 2018.