As Ohio lawmakers push to reform the state’s medical marijuana system, business leaders within that system are gearing up to block the effort. They contend that easing the entry of new producers could overwhelm the market and threaten the industry’s viability overall.
Huffman and his co-sponsor, Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, argue the existing medical marijuana program is failing.
“There’s approximately 324,000 Ohioans who are registered, but only about 160,000 are actually using the program," Schuring explained after a committee hearing in February.
“To me, that speaks volumes,” he said.
In a bid to address those perceived shortcomings, SB 9 would give doctors greater latitude to write recommendations, and it would throw open the doors to more marijuana businesses. The measure directs regulators to award dispensary licenses within 90 days to reach a target of one dispensary per 1,000 patients.
“What this is going to do is it’s going to cause a cannibalization within the market where there’s not enough market and not enough patients," he said.
Close acknowledged prices are higher in Ohio than Michigan, but argued Michigan faces far less regulation. He added that Ohio’s prices are lower than other neighbors like Pennsylvania.
Riviera Creek is a large medical marijuana cultivator and processor in Youngstown. CEO Daniel Kessler contended there’s no shortage of supply in Ohio’s marijuana market. He said Riviera is already holding back hundreds of pounds it can’t sell.
Kessler argued that sort of diversion has occurred in other states with oversupplied markets.
Peg Hollenbeck who founded Columbus-based processor BeneLeaves cut right to the chase.
Meanwhile, coalition members declined to weigh in on the recreational marijuana measure that could be on the ballot this fall. That proposal would create a statute legalizing marijuana use for anyone 21 or older. It would also allow home cultivation with a limit of six plants per person or 12 per household.
Close acknowledged the market isn’t perfect, and they’d welcome changes like including anxiety, insomnia and depression among the qualifying conditions. The current language includes a “physician’s discretion” catchall that would likely cover those ailments.
This story was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.
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