The world has experienced tremendous change, and the cannabis industry is no exception. With the stigma surrounding cannabis slowly dissolving, the public opening its mind to cannabis and cannabis products, and states needing to generate revenue after being hit hard in 2020 – the rate of change has accelerated like never before.

Before we move forward, it’s important to look back. In 2017, the first and only licensing round for medical marijuana dispensary licenses took place in Ohio, awarding 57 of these highly coveted spots to a pool of 32 companies. GTI and 127 OH, LLC received 5 dispensary licenses each, the most received by any individual applicant. Since then, four unchanging years have passed, and now, the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy will release a request for application (RFA II) to issue 73 new dispensary licenses, bringing a new wave of opportunity to the state’s medical marijuana market.  

Sure, Ohio may not hoist a big name like New York or Colorado and is limited to medical marijuana sales, but as the basketball world learned with NBA superstar and Akron native, LeBron James, surprising things can come from the Buckeye State. With a population of over 11.5 million, Ohio is a key state for cannabis businesses and the possibilities will only grow with a potential adult-use market. Here’s everything you need to know before you apply for an Ohio medical dispensary license.


Things To Know Before Applying

Under the oversight of the Board of Pharmacy, Ohio will be releasing 73 additional dispensary licenses, bringing the total number of dispensaries to 130. With more opportunities to jumpstart your cannabis industry venture(s), here are some things that are important to note before you apply:


Application Deadlines

Applications for dispensary licenses will be released during Summer 2021, but don’t wait! The likelihood of success starts with preparing well ahead of time.

Between the time the application is released until the final due date, you’ll have exactly 9-weeks (45 business days) to complete and submit the application. This deadline is absolutely concrete. No amount of pleading or bargaining will help if the deadline is forgotten or missed. To avoid an awkward confrontation with the Board of Pharmacy, don’t let yourself fall into a situation where you are rushing to complete the application. Alleviate possible time restraint pressures by starting the application process as early as possible. 


Application Requirements 

When applying for licensure, you must specify the region in which you want to apply. If your application meets all minimum requirements, it will be entered into a lottery for its specified region.

Other things to consider before deciding to apply:

  • Every member of the ownership team must be able to pass a background check
  • Every member of your ownership team must be able to prove tax compliance 
  • You rownership’s credibility matters so make sure you have some substantial resumes
  • 15% of licenses will be reserved for minority owned companies


Application Restrictions

According to the Board of Pharmacy, there is a limit of 5 dispensaries per company. A separate application with a fee of $5,000 per application, must be submitted for each dispensary. As with any cannabis licensure process, winning a dispensary license is not an easy feat. It requires patience, an eye for detail, and most importantly, a strong commitment from beginning to end.

Additionally, if you’re thinking of adding a physician to your ownership team— don’t.  A physician registered to prescribe medical marijuana in Ohio may not apply for a dispensary license. But don’t let searching for the right people take you off track from pursuing a dispensary license, luckily, CANN Strategy is the start-up solution to your hiring needs.


The Ohio Dispensary License Application Process

Each state has a unique application process that only grows more and more thorough as new additions enter the market of medical marijuana. As with any application, the Ohio dispensary license application process is highly competitive with the potential of only 15 businesses being awarded licenses. That’s why submitting the strongest, most detailed application possible isn’t just a nice goal to set, it is absolutely necessary.

But first, learning the application requirements inside and out should be any licensee hopeful’s #1 priority.


Dispensary License Application Requirements

Items required for companies applying for dispensary licenses include, but are not limited to:

1. An application fee (likely $5,000 per application submitted)

2. Dispensary name

3. Type of business organization of the applicant, such as:

  • Individual
  • Corporation
  • Partnership
  • Limited-Liability Company
  • Association or Cooperative
  • Joint Venture
  • Any other business organization

4. A Secretary of State issued license

5. A copy of the Articles of Incorporation, Articles of Organization or Partnership or Joint Venture documentation

6. The physical address where the proposed dispensary will be located

7. The physical address of any other medical marijuana businesses owned by the company, including other businesses the company is applying for

8. The mailing address of the applicant

9. The telephone number of the applicant

10. Proof that the applicant has a lease for the property where the dispensary will be located, OR a signed and notarized document from the owner of the property where the dispensary will be located that the owner will lease the property to the company 

11. A map of the area surrounding the prospective dispensary that shows the facility is at least five hundred feet from the boundaries of a:

  • School
  • Church
  • Public library
  • Public playground
  • Public park
  • Community addiction services provider 

12. Evidence that the applicant is in compliance with any local ordinances, rules, or regulations adopted by the city/town where the property is located

13. A notarized and signed statement from at least one of the owners of the company stating that the information provided to the board in the application for a dispensary license is true and correct at the time of signing.

14. Documentation that proves the applicant is in compliance with the applicable tax laws of Ohio and any other jurisdiction where the applicant has operated and conducted business within the last three years. 

15. A financial plan

16. A description of the proposed organizational structure of the dispensary

17. Information for each owner, officer and board member of the proposed dispensary:

18. A plan for the care, quality, and safekeeping of medical marijuana from delivery to sales

19. Inventory Control Plan

20. Business Plan

21. Patient Education Plan

22. Staffing and Training Plan

23. Environmental Impact Minimization Plan

24. Consistency of Supply Plan (plan to meet the needs of patients)

25. A detailed description of any other services or products to be offered by the proposed dispensary

26. Information about any program to assist veterans or the indigent in obtaining medical marijuana that the proposed dispensary intends to offer

Remember: Incomplete applications will not be read by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.


How Are Qualified Companies Selected For A Dispensary License?

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy determines and awards dispensary licenses on a competitive basis using the criteria set forth in the notice for applications. It’s important to note that the burden of proving an applicant’s qualifications rests with the applicant, which makes it crucial to submit only the very best at the time of application.

The Board will also consider the following factors in evaluating dispensary license applications:

  • The character and fitness of the persons with an ownership, financial, or influential interest in the dispensary
  • The location for the proposed dispensary
  • The applicant shows that it does not have an ownership or investment interest in or compensation arrangement with any of the following:
    • A laboratory licensed in Ohio
    • An applicant for a license to conduct laboratory testing in Ohio
  • The applicant shows that it does not share any corporate officers or employees with:
    • A laboratory licensed in Ohio
    • An applicant for a license to conduct laboratory testing in Ohio
  • The applicant shows that it will not be located within five hundred feet of a school, church, public library, public playground, or public park
  • The applicant proves it is in compliance with the applicable tax laws of Ohio
  • The applicant meets all other licensure eligibility conditions established in Ohio Revised Code 3796
  • Inventory Control Plan
  • Security Plans (with a focus on the ability to deter diversion and theft & loss)
  • Knowledge of compliance, products tracking, and sales procedures
  • The applications demonstration of plans to operate in compliance with regulations
  • Whether at least fifty-one percent of those who own and control the dispensary are Blacks or African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics or Latinos, or Asians
  • The extent to which the applicant or any of the applicant’s dispensary backers have a financial interest in another licensee, registrant, or applicant

The Board might request additional information if they deem it necessary to process and fully investigate an application. If an audit is requested:

  • Your company must provide requested additional information by the close of business of the fifth business day after the request has been received by the applicant
  • If your company does not provide the requested information within fiver calendar days, the Board will consider the application to be an abandoned application and will no longer evaluate the application


Why Are Dispensary License Applications Rejected?

When you submit an application for a cannabis dispensary license, the ultimate goal is to win. Avoiding common mistakes can make the difference between reaching your goal and having your application automatically disqualified. 

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy will not consider an application from any company that:

  • Submits an application containing one or more associated key employees who pleaded guilty to or were convicted of a disqualifying offense
  • Has an ownership interest or investment interest in a testing laboratory, an applicant for a license as a testing laboratory; or shares any corporate officers or employees with a testing laboratory or applicant for a testing laboratory
  • Is a physician with a certificate to recommend medical marijuana or such a physician has an ownership or investment interest in or a compensation arrangement with the applicant
  • Will be located within five hundred feet of a prohibited facility
  • Is not in compliance with the applicable tax laws of this state or its political subdivisions
  • Is not in compliance with the applicable tax laws of any jurisdiction where the applicant has operated and conducted business within the last three years
  • Submits an incomplete, inaccurate, false, or misleading application
  • Knowingly employs a person who has been disciplined by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy or any professional licensing board
  • Will be location within five hundred feet of a community addiction services provider
  • Fails to pay applicable fees


Reach Your Goals With CANN Strategy

Currently, Ohio is a medical marijuana-only market with dispensaries only serving qualified patients, but dozens of new dispensary licenses are up for grabs. With the application release date coming soon, there’s no better time to act than now. CANN Strategy is here to help manage key details and resources needed during every phase of the licensing application to give your company the greatest chance of obtaining an Ohio dispensary license. Contact us today to start the conversation.

For more information, see our comprehensive guide to opening a cannabis dispensary.

Juliana Whitney