COLUMBUS, Ohio – A state board will decide Friday whether to lift a rule that caps the number of Ohio medical marijuana dispensaries at 60.
The proposed rule change before the Ohio Board of Pharmacy doesn’t specify a new cap. Instead it allows the panel to determine the number of dispensaries after looking at the state’s population, the number of patients seeking medical marijuana and the geographic distribution of current sites, said Ali Simon, a spokeswoman for the board.
It is unknown how many more dispensaries would be allowed to open if the cap is lifted.
“The Board has not made a final decision at this time,” Simon said in an email. “Any decision that is made will be done so at a public meeting of the Board.”
The proposed change is coming after Ohio medical marijuana patients were surveyed last year about the program, including about the distances they traveled to get product. About 20% said they traveled over 30 miles from home to dispensaries, which may have to do with locations far from their homes, patients shopping at stores that are close to workplaces or because certain dispensaries carry products that they want.
Currently, 57 companies hold provisional dispensary licenses and 52 of them have built their retail spaces and have received certificates of operation from marijuana regulators.
Matt Close, executive director of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association, which represents cultivators, dispensaries and processors, said that patient numbers are growing rapidly since the first dispensaries opened in January of 2019.
State figures, for instance, show 148,861 registered patients or caregivers had purchased product at least once by the end of January. That’s up from 139,458 in December and 131,398 in November.
“Our main concern is patient access and patient safety,” Close said. “We are growing at a