Ohio Cannabis Regulators Update Advisory Committee on Medical Program Developments

On Nov. 12, Ohio medical cannabis regulators and the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee (MMAC) held a virtual meeting to discuss the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

Regulators shared numerous updates, including about cultivation, processing, testing, dispensing and patients.

Ohio Department of Commerce update

Ohio’s Department of Commerce regulates cultivators, processors and testing labs. Greg McIlvaine, senior policy adviser for the Ohio Department of Commerce, oversees that department’s role in the medical cannabis program and gave a presentation during the meeting.

Twenty-five cultivators, 24 processors and three labs are currently operational in Ohio, McIlvaine said. Because of Ohio House Bill 197, “COVID-19-response legislation,” he said provisional licensees have until Dec. 1 to take action on their licenses. The department expects provisional licensees to have their final inspections and certificates of operation soon after the deadline, he added.

“The Commerce team also continues to implement accountability measures to ensure quality testing, including review of testing labs’ standard operating procedures and evaluation methods, as well as engagement with METRC, which is our seed-to-sale tracking system, to implement configurations and other updates to better track licensees’ testing results,” McIlvaine said.

McIlvaine called attention to an October mandatory product recall of dark chocolate Encore Edibles sold by Canton processor Mother Grows Best. He said the edibles “exceeded the regulatory thresholds for cadmium.”

In addition, the department is currently reviewing testing lab applications, he said. “These applications will be accepted through November 27 and then reviewed and approved for a provisional license on a rolling basis,” he said.

Also, as part of a rule update package, McIlvaine said the department is “implementing electronic background checks to streamline the licensee employee ID badge process and reviewing several licensee ownership interest change requests.”

The following photos are screenshots of McIlvaine’s presentation, displaying additional program updates:

McIlvaine also responded to questions from MMAC members. Member Robert Kowalski, who represents patients, said patients are curious about product analysis and asked McIlvaine if lab test results are available to patients if they request them.

McIlvaine said THC and CBD levels are required on the label. Some cultivators and manufacturers also choose to include terpene levels and QR codes on certificates of analysis.

“Right now, Commerce does not collect the certificates of analysis; those are sent to the labs for the licensees,” McIlvaine said. “But processors and dispensaries can provide the certificate of analysis to patients if they want. … And right now, we are currently working on a rule update package; we’re looking to standardize our product label, which will have a lot of this information in kind of a one-stop shop that’s a little more clear for patients.

“So, that’s a key issue that we’re looking at; we want to make sure that patients have all of that information right there on the label that’s easily digestible.”

Ohio Board of Pharmacy update

Ohio’s Board of Pharmacy regulates dispensaries and registers patients and caregivers. Sharon Maerten-Moore, director of medical marijuana operations at the Board of Pharmacy, also gave a presentation.

Some of the most recent changes, as well as potential changes, concern changes in business ownership. In Ohio, “dispensaries cannot change ownership until they’ve been in operation for a year,” Maerten-Moore said. “Many of these dispensaries are now at or just past that one-year mark. We have had two [that] completed what I’ll call complete change of ownerships; that’s where one company is buying a dispensary from another company or individual.

“We’ve also had some smaller change-of-ownership reviews that we’ve done, where it maybe is just a percentage of the stock owned. We are seeing a bit of an uptick in terms of people reaching out to us about how to go about change of ownership and in terms of actually receiving applications for changes of ownership.”

The Board of Pharmacy first sent patients and caregivers surveys July 24 and closed the survey Sept. 1, Maerten-Moore said. The board received nearly 12,000 responses from 59 of Ohio’s 88 counties; most responses were from patients, but some were from caregivers.

RELATED: Ohio Regulators Consider Whether State Needs More Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

Out of the group of respondents to the survey, 81.5% of patients and caregivers travel less than 30 miles to reach a dispensary, and about 38.3% of that group travel 10 miles or less, Maerten-Moore said. In addition, she said the Board of Pharmacy has data that indicates patients visit multiple dispensaries.

The following photos are screenshots of Maerten-Moore’s presentation, displaying survey results:

The following are additional comments submitted by patients to the Board of Pharmacy (also screenshots of Maerten-Moore’s presentation).

Maerten-Moore also took questions from members of the MMAC. Committee member Tony E. Coder, Jr., who represents “persons involved in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction,” according to medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov, asked Maerten-Moore if there has been any recent discussion surrounding minority-owned cannabis businesses.

Maerten-Moore pointed out that the state had previously gotten rid of a requirement that 15% of licenses to go to “economically disadvantaged groups,” including minorities. (Earlier this year, a spokesperson from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy told Cannabis Dispensary that the 15% requirement is “no longer in effect” after judges ruled it unconstitutional.)

“We do have a couple of dispensaries that have minority ownership in them, so it’s definitely something that is on our radar,” Maerten-Moore said. “But I would be remiss to say we have a plan in place to address that.”

Then, MMAC member Stephanie M. Abel, Ph.D., a practicing pharmacist, asked Maerten-Moore about discussion regarding reciprocity agreements with other states.

Ohio regulators annually speak with other state regulators about reciprocity, Maerten-Moore responded. “There are some states that will accept a medical marijuana card from Ohio, even though we won’t; we don’t do the opposite because we don’t have an agreement in place, which is what our law requires,” she said. “So, it’s something we do continue to pursue.”

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