This living article comprehensively details everything required to win a cannabis license in Ohio. This information includes the history of cannabis legalization, political environment, social equity provisions, medical and recreational applications and operations, and market opportunities in the Ohio cannabis licensing scheme. Readers engaging in cannabis license pursuits in Ohio should subscribe to this feed to receive future updates, as the “field” is evolving rapidly.

Click here to learn the 10 Steps to Win a Cannabis Business License, regardless of the state or locality.

Historical Timeline of Cannabis in Ohio


The Ohio State Medical Society held a clinical conference related to cannabis in 1860 and reported on medical successes of cannabis for multiple diagnoses[1],[2].


Governor Rhodes signed into law House Bill 300, in general alignment with the federal Controlled Substance Act, though HB 300 decriminalized possession of cannabis if less than 100 grams.


The 113th General Assembly passed Senate Bill 185[3] to create a four-year controlled substances therapeutic research program operated by the Ohio Department of Health to study the therapeutic uses of marihuana.


Multiple increases of fines and other penalties for drug related offenses passed the General Assembly, including HB 215, related to the sale or possession of controlled substances at or within 1,000 feet of a school, and SB 258.


Ohio citizens voted 63% in opposition[4] to Issue 3 on the November ballot, which sought to legalize recreational marijuana statewide through constitutional amendment[5]. The measure focused strongly on monopolistic control of the market and did not have support of some cannabis advocacy groups. Also on the November ballot was Issue 2, which the legislature created to ban special-interest groups from creating constitutional amendments for financial gain[6]. Issue 2 passed with 51% of votes cast in favor.


On September 8, 2016, House Bill 523 legalized medical marijuana in Ohio. This bill established the basic framework for Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program. Smoking cannabis and home cultivation for medical patients are not included in the new law.


The Ohio Board of Pharmacy issued provisional licenses for cultivators, processors, testing laboratories, and retailers of medical marijuana. Multi-state operators Green Thumb Industries[7] and GreenLeaf Apothecaries were each awarded the maximum allowable of five dispensary licenses.


First medical cannabis sales began on January 16th from CY+ in Wintersville, The Forest Sandusky in Sandusky, Ohio Valley Natural Relief in Wintersville, and The Botanist (operated by GreenLeaf[8]) in Canton.


November 2023, voters said yes to adult-use cannabis legalization in the state with a 57% majority. The initiative will go into effect on December 7th.

Political Environment for Cannabis Licensees and Stakeholders in Ohio

Previous Administration

Elected officials in Ohio have given begrudging support of the medical cannabis program since its inception. The 2016 Medical Marijuana Control Program was passed with bipartisan support after pressure from Ohio citizens. Legalization of recreational cannabis for adult use has not been historically supported.

Current Administration

Cannabis reform remains a contentious issue within the Ohio General Assembly, despite the November 2023 voter majority for recreational cannabis legalization. The state legislature can amend the initiated statute at any time, which could impact the effective date and related provisions. Some officials proposed alterations to the language of the Act before its early December implementation, including House Speaker Jason Stephens and Senate President Matt Huffman, with the stated assumption that voters didn’t fully comprehend the issue they passed[9],[10]. Other elected officials, such as Representative Casey Weinstein, Representative Jamie Callender, and Senator William DeMora, have emphasized the importance of respecting the intent of the voter initiative[11],[12]. Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Dave Joyce each shared publicly that they cast their personal ballots in favor of cannabis legalization[13].

Governor Mike DeWine openly opposed the ballot measure, and said it “would be a real mistake for us to have recreational marijuana” in Ohio[14], but since voters passed the issue, has stated that he “respects the peoples clear choice to have legal marijuana”[15] in Ohio and will make sure that happens. The Governor has requested the legislature carefully consider safe and respectful implementation, especially through the prevention of accidental edible consumption, advertising restrictions, and limiting the number of people under the influence while driving, and has recently advocated for the elimination of criminal penalties for cannabis possession[16].

On December 4th, just days before a voter initiative for adult use cannabis legalization would come into effect, the Ohio Senate General Government Committee added language to HB 86, a bill originally created to make minor changes to alcohol regulations[17], that sought to disallow home cultivation and drastically change tax revenue allocation while creating new product potency limits and reducing the number of potential dispensary licenses[18]. HB 86 was then processed as an emergency regulation so that it would take immediate effect and circumvent the voter approved initiative, but required a two-thirds majority vote to pass and a signature from Governor DeWine. Thousands of Ohio constituents immediately called and emailed representatives in protest of these changes. On December 6th, after increased pressure from the public and advocate testimonies to committees, the Senate passed a version of HB 86 that would retain home cultivation, provide automatic expungements of prior cannabis convictions, and expedite the process for adults to purchase products from currently licensed dispensaries. Since the bill still requires concurrence from the House, the voter initiated measure went into effect on December 7th. Additional reform is still likely to occur. Representative Gary Click has independently proposed HB 341, which would allow municipalities to ban home grow and cannabis businesses and provide 19% of cannabis tax revenue to law enforcement[19], and Representative Cindy Abrams has introduced HB 326 to use a portion of the tax revenue to fund peace officer training[20], with a stated goal of $40 million annually[21]. The Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County[22] will hear any challenges related to the Cannabis Control Act implementation or its adopted rules.

Governor DeWine Ohio Cannabis Press Conference

Image: Governor DeWine at a December 6 Press Conference Discussing Recreational Marijuana. Source: Ohio WKYC Channel 3 News.

Cannabis Regulatory Bodies

The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the State Medical Board of Ohio, and the Ohio Department of Commerce collectively oversee the Medical Marijuana Control Program of Ohio (“MMCP”). Since the MMCP inception in 2016 the Board of Pharmacy and State Medical Board have been responsible for oversight of dispensaries, dispensary employees, and regulated medical cannabis products, and the Department of Commerce is responsible for licensure of cultivators, processors, and testing laboratories. A newly created Division of Cannabis Control will oversee the adult use cannabis program.

The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy (“the Board”) is responsible for the licensure of retail dispensaries and of dispensary employees. The Board also issues identification cards for medical cannabis patients and their caregivers, and provides educational resources to promote informed decision-making and safe medication use. The Board manages the patient and caregiver registry, and the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (“OARRS”) has been operated by the Board since 2006 with the intent to detect the diversion, abuse, and misuse of controlled substances[23] and is used throughout the MMCP to track all retail sales. All new forms of medical marijuana must be reviewed, approved, and assigned a product identifier by the Board before production or sale.

Ohio Board of Pharmacy Manages the Cannabis Program

Image: State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy Logo and Seal. Source: State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

The Division of Cannabis Control (“the Division”) has the authority to license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult use cannabis operators, adult use testing laboratories, and any individuals required to be licensed related to recreational cannabis businesses[24]. The Division was established by the Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis[25]. The Division is within the Department of Commerce and will create rules related to recreational cannabis topics, including which forms of cannabis may be sold, required testing, and a seed-to-sale tracking process. The Department of Commerce published a guide for Ohio residents to learn about cannabis legalization and implementation within one day of the vote passing[26].

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (“MHAS”) works closely with the Division to provide publicly accessible education about addiction issues related to cannabis or other controlled substances. MHAS also administers the cannabis addiction fund, in support of addiction and substance abuse services and to conduct related research. The fund helps cover costs for a statewide toll-free telephone number, operated by MHAS, that Ohio residents can call to obtain help or information about available addiction services. MHAS will prepare an annual report for the Director of Commerce on the specific uses of all funds and their purpose related to cannabis education or treatment services.

Social Equity

Original legislation related to medical marijuana legalization stated that 15% of all medicinal cannabis business licenses be awarded to racial minority applicants. Provisions similar to this are common in states that legalize cannabis, as an attempt to rectify the impact of the War on Drugs. However, the equity provision in Ohio was deemed unconstitutional[27] in 2018 because it specified race as the only social equity qualifier, creating a “racial quota” that violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Ohio state constitution. This ruling came on August 24, 2018, months after the first round of licenses were issued, 16% of which were awarded to minority-identified applicants.

PharmaCann Ohio LLC and Greenleaf Gardens LLC each filed cases against the Ohio Board of Pharmacy arguing that their license denials were unfair. PharmaCann was awarded a license in May 2018[28] after a scoring error was discovered, and Greenleaf Gardens was awarded a license after the social equity provision was removed. In June of 2019 the Board of Pharmacy alleged that one social equity licensee, Harvest of Ohio, violated regulations with observed operational control performed by a white male. The case outcome was a half million dollar donation by Harvest of Ohio towards the state’s prescription drug reporting database[29] with an explicit agreement that ongoing business operations are led by a diverse team. As of April 2021, the Columbus Dispatch reported that 9 out of 57 active dispensaries in Ohio were equity owned,[30] precisely 15%.

The recently passed Ohio Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis instructs the Department of Development to establish a Cannabis Social Equity and Jobs Program (“program”) based on both social and economic disadvantages. The program will create methods for social equity certification and strive to educate potential participants about business opportunities. Financial and technical assistance will be provided to certified individuals through the program. Funds from the program will go towards judicial and criminal justice reform, financial assistance for social equity applicants, and investment in communities most impacted by cannabis criminalization. Additionally, the program will propose policy reform related to the impacts of cannabis law enforcement. All licensed cannabis businesses will be encouraged to implement employment practices to hire and educate specific disadvantaged groups.

Criteria for social equity applicants has been updated since 2018. Eligibility for the program will be based specifically on the wealth of the business and personal wealth of its owners; business location in qualified census tracts; business size; racial minority; personal disadvantage due to color, ethnic origin, gender, or physical disability; disadvantage from long-term residence in an area of high unemployment; and whether the owner or their spouse, child, or parent, have ever been arrested for, convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent for a cannabis related offense prior to December 7th, 2023. Participants in the social equity program will be continually reevaluated for qualification.

Medical Cannabis

Medical Cannabis Patients

Since the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program inception, 403,452 medical cannabis patients have registered in Ohio. As of October 30, 2023 there are 178,703 active patients[31] in the MMCP, 6,255 less than the month before. Patients must have a current registration and physician recommendation to be considered active. Registration is valid for one year. Under Ohio law, qualifying conditions for medical cannabis include AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spasticity, spinal cord disease or injury, terminal illness, Tourette syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis[32], and more recently explicitly includes arthritis, chronic migraines, complex regional pain syndrome, Lupus, and degenerative disc disease. Available products include oils, tinctures, plant material, edibles, lotions, creams, and patches. No smoking or combusting of medical cannabis is allowed, though vaporization is permitted. Furthermore, no home cultivation is allowed under the MMCP.

Medical Marijuana Control Program of Ohio Logo

Image: Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program Logo. Source: Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

Only Ohio residents can register in the MMCP. The first step to become a medical marijuana patient is to establish and maintain a physician-patient relationship with a physician holding an active certificate to recommend (“CTR”) issued by the State Medical Board of Ohio. There are more than 600 qualified physicians[33] and the Medical Board provides a list and interactive map on their website[34] to help patients find a doctor. During the initial appointment, the physician will submit their medical marijuana recommendations for the patient directly into the digital Patient Registry. At this point, the Patient Registry will automatically send an email for the patient to complete their application. The MMCP has partnered with Bamboo Health to provide extensive technical support for patients[35] related to the Registry. The annual registration fee is $50 although veterans and individuals in financial need can have their fees reduced by half[36]. Financial need must be noted during an intake appointment to receive support[37].

To find a licensed dispensary the MMCP maintains a list[38] of operational dispensaries by county on their website and also offer an interactive map. Photo identification is always required to purchase cannabis products. Staff at each dispensary are available for counsel on the appropriate type and dose of product. At this time there is no medical cannabis reciprocity for medical cannabis patients visiting Ohio from other states. It is important to remember that any interstate transport of cannabis remains illegal[39], even for personal medicinal purposes. Limited medical cannabis services may be available to MMCP patients traveling to other areas of the country.

Ohio Medical Marijuana License Applications

After HB 523 became effective in 2016, the Department of Commerce developed an application for cultivators, processors, and testing laboratories as part of the Medical Marijuana Control Program. The licensing process allowed for 12 level I cultivation licenses and 12 level II cultivation licenses, with level I licensees permitted up to 25,000 square feet for cultivation, and level II licensees allowed up to 3,000 square feet designated for cultivation upon initial licensure. In April 2017 applications requirements were released. Level II cultivator applications were accepted June 5-16, 2017 with level I cultivator applications subsequently accepted June 19-30, 2017.

Required information for the application included ownership disclosure, proof of liquid assets (a minimum of $500,000 for level I applicants or $50,000 for level II cultivators), financial responsibility insurance, tax payment records for everyone with more than 1% ownership, business entity form, property owner approval for use as a cannabis business, notice of proper zoning, an organizational chart, a business plan, financial plan, operations plan, quality assurance plan, and a security plan.

109 applications for level I licenses and 76 applications for level II licenses were received by the submission deadline. At the time of licensure award, 15% of the licenses were reserved for social equity applicants. Applications were scored by 25 distinct individuals, including state employees and external consultants. Provisional licenses were awarded in November 2017 to 12 level I cultivators: Buckeye Relief LLC in Eastlake; Grow Ohio Pharmaceuticals LLC; OPC Cultivation LLC; Riviera Creek Holdings LLC; Pure Ohio Wellness LLC; Columbia Care OH LLC; Terradiol Ohio LLC; Standard Wellness Company LLC; AT-CPC of Ohio LLC; Cresco Labs Ohio LLC; Parma Wellness Center LLC; Harvest Grows LLC, and to 12 level II cultivators, Fire Rock LID; FN Group Holdings; Mother Grows Best LLC; OhioGrow LLC; Ancient Roots LLC; Ohio Clean Lead LLF; Ascension Bio Medical; Agri-Med Ohio LLC; Paragon Development Group LLC; Hemma LLC; Galenas LLC; and, Farkas Farms, LLC. The majority of rejected applicants filed to have a hearing to review and challenge the denial. A review by third party consultancy EY[40] found no award changing bias or errors in the originally determined application rankings[41] since PharmaCann, the only impacted applicant, was awarded a license prior to the EY conclusion.

The application acceptance period for processors was December 4-15, 2017. All application materials were required to be hand delivered to the Ohio Department of Commerce office in Columbus before 5pm on the 15th, with both printed and digital copies[42]. The $10,000 application fee was due at the time of application submission. Processors may not own or control more than one license at a given time. Individuals were permitted to submit applications with the same ownership structure for multiple locations with the understanding that they can only accept one license award.

The processor application was broken down into two main sections. Section 1 contained forms provided by the Department for applicants to complete, and section 2 contained prompts to be answered in narrative form within the given page limits. All applicants were required to provide financial disclosures and submit to a background check. Section 1 forms include 1A Business Entity and Contact Information that includes the key information that will be used for filing and tracking purposes; 1B Liquid Assets; 1C Financial Responsibility Form for Insurance; 1D Financial Responsibility Form for Escrow or Surety that certifies the ability to obtain either an escrow or surety bond; 1E Property Owner Approval for Use to show that the applicant is either the owner of the proposed facility property or has a lease or agreement with the property owner that explicitly recognizes and permits the proposed use of the property as a cannabis processor facility; 1F 500 Foot Compliance Cover Page to provide a map that shows the boundaries of the property are more than 500 feet away from the boundaries of any prohibited facility property such as a school; 1G Notice of Proper Zoning to document communication with local zoning officials related to cannabis codes or rules imposed by the local jurisdiction, signed by a local zoning or government representative; 1H Zoning Permit to attach a copy of approved zoning permits; 1I Owners and Officers Roster to list all owners, officers, and direct or indirect operational managers associated with the proposed facility, and any person who has a direct or indirect financial interest in the operation; 1J Organizational Chart with positions of all officers identified in 1I and 1K and other roles as deemed necessary by the business; 1K Individual Tax and Background Information for each person listed on 1I; 1L Business in Other Jurisdictions to disclose information on medical marijuana businesses in other jurisdictions and certify that no owner or officer has received a revocation or suspension from another jurisdiction related to the conduct of cannabis business; 1M Copies of Licenses from Business in Other Jurisdictions; 1N Disadvantaged Group Applicant to certify whether the applicant is a member of a Disadvantaged Group; 1O Entity Identifier Legend if the applicant chooses to redact information regarding identifiable entities affiliated with the applicant in Section 2 of the application; 1P Trade Secret and Infrastructure Record Notification to assert if any part of the application represents trade secrets or record notification; and 1Q Tax Certification Page. Section 2 narratives were crafted without personally identifiable information. Section 2 materials included a 15 page business plan to demonstrate business experience and ability to operate the proposed facility; a 30 page operations plan to detail planned methods of extraction and manufacturing techniques, with related standard operating procedures; a 10 page financial plan and funding analysis to establish the ability to fulfill financial responsibility requirements; a 30 page compliant[43] quality assurance plan; and a 30 page security plan to establish security methods, surveillance technology, emergency notification procedures, and product transportation guidelines, with a plot plan and map that clearly defines restricted access areas.

The Department received 104 applications for processor licenses in the first round. Only 14 applicants initially met all requirements, all of whom were awarded provisional licenses. In October 2018, the Department allowed original applicants that failed the security section to resubmit materials for consideration. The Department achieved their goal of awarding 26 additional licenses after review of the resubmissions, for the regulatorily permitted 40 total processors.

The first testing laboratory applications were accepted in 2017, with a second application round held September 25-November 27, 2020. Both applications included multiple forms for the applicants to complete with relevant business information. Required details included business contact information, disclosure of liquid assets, tax certification, proof of insurance or ability to obtain insurance, proof of escrow or a surety bond of at least $75,000, a financial plan, property owner approval, a 500 foot compliance statement, notice of proper zoning, owners and officers roster, organizational chart, individual tax and background check information, disclosure of medical marijuana businesses in other jurisdictions and copies of licenses if applicable, and a business plan, operations plan, and a security plan[44]. The laboratory application fee is $2,000 and due at time of application, and an initial certificate of operation fee of $18,000. The annual license renewal fee is $20,000. There is no limit to the number of testing licenses that can be awarded by the Department.

Dispensary applications were announced on September 17, 2017, with application materials due Nov 3-17. In this initial round 60 dispensary licenses were available, distributed by district. Districts were created by the Board specifically for cannabis dispensary allocation with consideration of population density and access to roadways. The district map was created with consultation from regulators of other states with cannabis programs[45]. The State Board of Pharmacy reserved 15% of licenses in this round for economically disadvantaged groups that identified as such and met the conditions set forth at that time[46]. Individuals can apply for unlimited dispensary licenses but cannot accept more than five dispensary licenses at any time. Operational and provisional licenses are both counted towards this total. Furthermore, no one is permitted to own more than 66% of the dispensaries in a given district[47].

Ohio Cannabis Dispensary District Map

Image: Dispensary District Map. Source: Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

Applications were submitted electronically with a required and nonrefundable fee of $5,000. Required information for the application included a site and facility plan; business startup plan; descriptions of duties for all roles; capital requirements; business history and experience; operations plan; security and surveillance plans; receiving of product operational procedures; storage plans; plan for safe dispensing of products; inventory management plans; plan for diversion prevention; sanitation and safety operational procedures; compliant recordkeeping plans; staff education and training plans; and patient care and education operational procedures[48], all of which were displayed as prompts in the online portal[49] for dispensary applicants. The operations plan accounted for the majority of the application score (52%) and included questions on dispensary oversight; security and surveillance; receiving, storage, dispensing, inventory management, and diversion prevention; sanitation; safety; and recordkeeping[50]. Additional information required for the application included business structure details, disclosure of liquid assets (minimum $250,000 per application), tax authorization, disclosures of criminal background, demographic survey, and declaration of district for the proposed dispensary.

PharmaCann Cannabis License App Requirements

Image: PharmaCann LLC Proof of 500 Foot Compliance. Source: PharmaCann Ohio Application.

Applications were reviewed by State of Ohio employees including individuals hired specifically by the Board as experts for the purpose of application review. An independent assessment was completed by Gartner Consulting to confirm the integrity of the review process. 56 provisional licenses were awarded; this is four fewer than intended because there were no applicants in Northwest District 2 or Southwest District 3, each with one available license, and there were no qualified applicants from Northwest District 1, with two available licenses. Provisional licensees are granted six months to demonstrate compliance and pass an inspection from the MMCP to obtain a certificate of operation, at which point a $70,000 licensing fee is due.

In April 2021 the Ohio Board of Pharmacy decided to increase the number of dispensary licenses to 130 (from the previous limit of 57). The second dispensary Request for Application was published in September 2021[51]. The application window opened on November 4th and closed on November 18th at 2pm, with all applications and associated fees submitted electronically. Required documentation for the application included the business name and articles of incorporation; proposed facility location with a professional survey and proof of site control; an explicit declaration of the county and district of application; disclosure of ownership in other marijuana entities; an organizational chart and hiring timeline; proof of a surety bond of at least $50,000; criminal background disclosure; a to scale site plan with construction timelines; a detailed budget including projected operational costs and demonstration of liquid assets of at least $250,000; and an operational plan that includes protocols for security, product storage, compliance with state tracking programs, inventory control, operational hours, patient education, and recordkeeping. The Board received more than 1,450 applications[52]. Licenses were awarded based on district.

Current Operators

There are currently 34 medical cannabis cultivators[53], 44 processors[54], 8 testing laboratories, and 114 dispensaries with an active certificate of operation. Additional provisional licenses have been awarded to three cultivators, two processors, two testing laboratories[55], and one dispensary. Provisional dispensary licenses were awarded as recently as March of 2023[56].  The state inventory tracking system (seed-to-sale) is Metrc, and the state prescription monitoring program is the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (“OARRS”). Both systems track all sales of medical cannabis products to patients. An interactive map and full list of licensed dispensaries with addresses and contact information can be readily found on the Medical Marijuana Control Program website[57]. No medical cannabis delivery services are currently available[58] but dispensaries with Board approval may provide drive through services[59],[60]. A dispensary can only operate between the hours of 7 a.m.-9 p.m. and must be open for a minimum of 35 hours per week.

Ohio Active Cannabis Dispensaries

Image: Map of Current Dispensaries. Source: Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

Current operators FarmaceuticalRX, Curaleaf (operating in the state as Ohio Grown Therapies), and The Botanist (also known as Acreage Holdings) each contributed financially to the campaign to legalize recreational cannabis in Ohio. Dispensary operator Harvest of Ohio has confirmed they will utilize a dual license to serve medical cannabis patients and the adult use market[61] and Harvest COO Amonica Davis said in a recent CNN interview that “we have a commitment, and are very intentional in creating our workforce that is highly concentrated with women at the executive level. Over 50% of our employees are people of color, and much of our supply chain comes from partners who are traditionally underrepresented in this space[62]”. Other operators have discussed their expansion plans for the recreational market, including vertically integrated Klutch Cannabis of Akron[63], vertically integrated Standard Wellness[64] in Gibsonburg, vertically integrated Ayr Wellness[65] with a new dispensary location in Dayton, and level I cultivator King City Gardens[66].

All medical cannabis operators will be granted a license to partake in the recreational market. Processors, testing laboratories, and dispensaries will be issued adult use licenses of the same type, for use at the currently licensed location. Level I cultivators can expand their canopy area to 100,000 square feet to serve the recreational market, 75,000 more than the current limitation, and will also be awarded three adult use dispensary licenses. Level II cultivators can increase their canopy to 15,000 square feet, a 12,000 square foot expansion, and each will be awarded one adult use dispensary license. Level I or II cultivators may locate their expanded cultivation practices to more than one facility, upon Division approval[67].

Recreational Cannabis

Voters passed “Issue 2” on the November 2023 ballot to legalize recreational cannabis in Ohio. Issue 2 was based on a citizen-initiated petition[68] to the Attorney General of Ohio, which provided draft language for the Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis. This became effective law on December 7th. With the law in place, adults in the state can now grow their own cannabis at home safely. Retail sales of adult-use cannabis products will begin in 2024 from currently licensed medical marijuana businesses.

Adult Use Rules

As of December 7th, adults over the age of 21 are allowed to grow up to six plants at their primary residence, with 12 plants permitted for households with multiple adults. Individuals can manually or mechanically process cultivated products at home, but may not process using hydrocarbon-based extraction. All plants must be within a secured room, greenhouse, or other enclosed area that prevents youth access and that cannot be readily seen from a public space[69] such as a sidewalk. Landlords may choose to prohibit cultivation or consumption activities within an individual lease agreement, so each unique situation must be carefully considered. Citizens of Ohio can transfer up to six plants to another consumer, as long as the transaction is free and unadvertised. Elected officials currently seek to reform the adult use rules to prohibit exchange of personally cultivated cannabis[70] and limit the number of plants per household, and they may do so at any future point.

Professional activities related to cannabis are protected and should not result in an immediate revocation of a concealed carry permit or registration revocation by any professional board in the State of Ohio. It is important to note that nothing requires an Ohio employer to permit or accommodate an employee’s use, possession, or distribution of recreational cannabis, even if the action in question is legal statewide. Work or field sobriety tests for cannabis may include breath, urine, or blood samples[71], and cannabis may stay in the body for days or weeks.

Adults can possess up to 2.5 ounces of dried cannabis flower and 15 grams of concentrate. Certain localities[72],[73],[74] have higher possession limits. Cannabis cannot be combusted or vaporized in a vehicle, streetcar, trolley, bike, watercraft, aircraft, or while otherwise in public, and it is illegal for individuals to operate machinery under the influence of adult use cannabis in any form. Mailing cannabis remains illegal in the United States, even between two decriminalized states or within a legal state.

Market Opportunities

The new Division of Cannabis Control is set to create and finalize rules and define the licensing process for new recreational cannabis businesses on or before September 7th, nine months after the law is effective. The statute may undergo further amendments by the state legislature at any time, and amendments could impact the timeline for the rulemaking and licensing process. License types available in Ohio include level I cultivator, level II cultivator, level III cultivator, processor, dispensary, and testing laboratory. All current medical cannabis licencees will receive an adult use license. Every other year after the first adult use operator license is issued, the Division will analyze and report on the current cannabis market, consumer demand, and anticipated market growth to determine if additional requests for application are necessary. Testing laboratory licenses can be awarded at any time and there is no limit to the number of testing licenses available.

Cultivator license levels determine the maximum cultivation space that licensee can use. Level I and II cultivators began in the Medical Marijuana Control Program and now have the option to serve the recreational market as well. Level III cultivator licenses will be awarded for the first time with the inaugural adult use cannabis application. All adult use cultivation licensees can acquire seeds, clones, plants, and other genetic materials for the cultivation of cannabis and may distribute, transfer, and sell cannabis to other adult use cannabis operators. Level I operators are the largest, and post-transition to the adult use market can have up to 100,000 square feet of cultivation space. Post-transition level II cultivators can cultivate in up to 15,000 square feet. Level III cultivator licensees are the smallest operators, with a maximum cultivation area of 5,000 square feet. Independent or vertically integrated processor licenses are available. Cultivators who distribute plant material directly to dispensaries are considered a plant-only processor. Adult use processor licensees can obtain cannabis from other adult use cannabis operators and then manufacture or otherwise process this input into an adult use cannabis product for transfer, distribution, or sale to a licensed adult use cannabis operator. Businesses licensed as testing laboratories may only obtain cannabis from cultivators and processors for testing purposes, and must conduct all testing, research, and operations in accordance with Division rules. Dispensaries may purchase packaged and labeled cannabis from cultivators of any level, processors, or other dispensaries, and may then dispense or sell cannabis and related paraphernalia directly to adult consumers at their retail location or via delivery[75].

Ohio is home to approximately 8 million adults over the age of 21[76], while less than 200,000 individuals are enrolled in the existing medical cannabis program, providing significant market growth opportunity within the state. Purchases from out of state residents are likely to contribute significantly to the new recreational cannabis market as well. Bordering states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia have not yet legalized adult use sales. Citizens of Indiana and Kentucky are notably among the last people nationwide to still lack any access to a medical cannabis program. A few hours away in Virginia, adults can cultivate cannabis at home for personal use, or purchase medical products from an MSO, but there is still no legal mechanism for recreational sales. Interstate transport of cannabis in any amount or form remains illegal, even with the exclusive intent of personal consumption, but visitors to Ohio are likely to regularly partake in the recreational cannabis market.

BDSA, an international cannabis market research firm, predicts that Ohio will be one of the fastest growing legal cannabis markets[77]. Ohio State University recently published a study that estimates annual tax revenue alone from adult use cannabis sales will be at least $276 million after five years of operations, and may broach $400 million. Scioto Analysis, an Ohio based public policy analysis firm, estimates that the legalization of the sale and purchase of cannabis for recreational use will have a net value to the state economy of $260 million per year, in addition to roughly 3,300 new jobs in the first year after legalization[78]. MJBizDaily forecasts adult-use sales could total $1.5 billion to $2 billion in the first year after the market launches and $3.5 billion to $4 billion by the fourth year[79].

Products permitted for sale from licensed recreational dispensaries will include seeds, clones, and live plants, in addition to flower, vapes, extracts, drops, lozenges, oils, tinctures, edibles, patches, beverages, pills, capsules, suppositories, oral pouches, oral strips, inhalers, salves, and lotions[80]. This is a stupendous change from the current medical cannabis market of Ohio, which prohibits flower sales and any combustion.[81] Issue 2 established limits of 35% THC for plant products and 90% for extracts. Adult-use retail products will have a 10% excise tax in addition to sales tax[82]. Taxes will be deposited into an adult use tax fund, then distributed quarterly by the director of the Office of Budget and Management with 36% to the cannabis social equity and jobs fund; 36% to the host community cannabis fund; 25% to the substance abuse and addiction fund; and 3% the division of cannabis control and tax commissioner fund[83]. Current legislation from the Ohio General Assembly may change product potency limits and the distribution of tax revenue.

All currently licensed medical marijuana operators of Ohio will be permitted to operate the same type of license, or more, in the recreational market. For instance, all ten of the current medical marijuana testing laboratories will automatically be given a non-medical cannabis testing license, including provisional licensees[84]. Each current medical dispensary will receive a recreational cannabis dispensary license, and those that are not co-owned by a cultivator or processor will receive two total recreational dispensary licenses. Current level II cultivators will also receive one adult-use dispensary license, and each level I cultivator will receive three dispensary licenses. Current cultivators can increase their canopy square footage once the business is licensed for adult use. This licensure process is set to begin on or before June 7th, 2024 and applications must be reviewed by the Division within three months[85] for award of licenses on or before September 7th. The General Assembly may pass legislation to expedite or prolong this timeline. Sales could begin as soon as licenses are awarded. An open application round for new businesses and interested parties will be available at a later date.

Application Specifics

In the open application round for new adult use cannabis business licenses in Ohio, likely in 2025, there will be 50 dispensary licenses available and 40 level III cultivator licenses. Preference will be given to certified social equity applicants. Social equity participants must verify their status through the Cannabis Social Equity and Jobs Program, which will be established by the Ohio Department of Development prior to the request for application. Application fees for social equity individuals will be reduced by at least half.

All applicants and prospective officers must submit to a background check. Misdemeanors related to cannabis will not be considered disqualifying offenses[86]. The background check will include a confirmation of tax history compliance. No person can have ownership or control of more than one level III cultivation license, and no other adult use cultivators or processors can have any ownership in a level III cultivator license. Additionally, no person can have more than one adult use processor license at any time, and no person can have more than eight adult use dispensary licenses. Further, no cultivator, processor, or dispensary can share any ownership, financial interest, officers, or employees with testing laboratories. The non-exhaustive definition of “person” related to applications and ownership is: an individual; a combination of individuals; a sole proprietorship; a firm, company, joint venture, partnership of any type, joint-stock company, any type of corporation, a corporate subsidiary, a limited liability company, a business trust, or any other business entity or organization; an assignee; a receiver; a trustee in bankruptcy; an unincorporated association, club, society, or other unincorporated entity organization; entities that are disregarded for federal income tax purposes; or any other nongovernmental, artificial, legal entity that is capable of engaging in business.

Anticipated required materials for the application include safety and security plans, cannabis education and training plans, a recordkeeping plan, quality assurance procedures, safety and surveillance plans, testing and tracking plans, an inventory plan, packaging and labeling plan, and a social equity plan[87]. Standard operational procedures may also be requested. All dispensaries must provide training to staff about cannabis addiction services, and related educational materials for all patrons. Applicants will likely be required to have property ownership or control at the time of application. All cannabis business facilities must be at least 500 feet away from any property or parcel operated by a church, public library, public playground, public park, school or preschool, or child care facility – each referred to as prohibited facilities.

Successful applicants will be awarded a provisional license from the Division. Provisional licenses are only valid for three months, and may be renewed for three months with specific Board approval[88]. A certificate of operation will be issued to the provisional licensee after all requirements are met, including an inspection by the Division. Once awarded, operational licenses will be automatically renewed by the Division unless significant cause is otherwise shown.


Advocacy at every level remains crucial for recreational cannabis in Ohio, as legislators actively seek to amend the voter initiated law. There is a strong medical cannabis market in Ohio, which will lead to a large initial recreational market as all current licensees are automatically offered a recreational license. Opportunities for new businesses to enter the recreational cannabis market will be available after the Division of Cannabis Control is established in 2024. Finding a viable location to operate a cannabis business with local approval can be a cutthroat challenge, and interested persons should begin a property search as soon as possible. In addition to careful review of this living document, understanding the statutes, regulations, and ordinances governing the location and activity of cannabis businesses is essential to becoming operational and subsequently maintaining compliance. The process is complex and rapidly changing – contact Cannabis Consultants Group for a consultation:



[1] Mack and Joy. 2001. Marijuana As Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy.

[2] Hand. 2016. History of medical cannabis. Cannabis: Medical Aspects. Cannabis Resources Report.

[3] Ohio Supreme Court. Director Sara Andrews. 19 October 2015. Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission Members and Advisory Committee Report.

[4] Ohio Secretary of State. 2015. General Election Results: November 3, 2015. Official Statewide Results.

[5] Ohio Secretary of State. 2015. Issue 3. Grants a Monopoly for the Commercial Production and Sale of Marijuana for Recreational and Medicinal Purposes.

[6] Ohio Secretary of State. 2015. Issue 2. Anti-monopoly amendment; protects the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit.

[7] Green Thumb Industries. 12 June 2018. Press Release. National Cannabis Company Green Thumb Industries Awarded the Maximum Five Dispensary Licenses in Ohio.

[8] Green Leaf.

[9] Cincinnati Enquirer. Haley BeMiller. 28 November 2023. Ohio House Bill Would Allow Municipalities to Ban Maijuana Use and Home Grow.

[10] Benzinga. 20 November 2023. GOP Ohio State Senate President Says Ohioans Didn’t Understand Cannabis Legalization Initiative, 57% Of Voters Beg To Differ.

[11] X. Representative Weinstein. 30 November 2023.

[12] House Bill 358. Introduced by Representative Callender.

[13] Marijuana Moment. August 2023. GOP Congressman Explains Why He’ll Vote For Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative in November as State Releases Pro and Con Arguments.

[14] Columbus TV WSYX. 17 August 2023.

[15] Columbus TB WSYX. 9 November 2023.

[16] Cleveland.Com. Jeremy Pelzer. 13 November 2023. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine: Proposed Changes to OHio’s new maijuana legalization law eon’t contain ‘surprises’.

[17] Ohio Legislature. HB 86. As Introduced.

[18] WLWT 5. Todd Dykes. 4 December 2023. Ohio Lawmaker Proposes Significant Changes to State New Legal Marijuana Program.

[19] Ohio Legislature. HB 341.

[20] Ohio Legislature. HB 326. As Introduced 13 November 2023.

[21] Statehouse News Bureau. Sarah Donaldson. 15 November 2023. Lawmaker Wants Some of Ohio’s Issue 2 Marijuana Revenue Put Toward Police Training.

[22] Franklin County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas.

[23] Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System.

[24] Ohio Revised Code § 3780.03.

[25] Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis.

[26] Ohio Department of Commerce. X. 8 November 2023.

[27] Pharmacann Ohio, LLC v. Williams. 15 November 2018. No. 17-CV-10962, 2018 WL 7500067. Ohio Court of Common Pleas.

[28] Ohio Department of Commerce. 15 May 2018. PharmaCann Provisional License Award.

[29] State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy. February 2020. Settlement Agreement in the Matter of Harvest of Ohio LLC.

[30] The Columbus Dispatch. April 2021. Patrick Cooley. Ohio Medical Marijuana Advocates Turn Attention to Greater Diversity.

[31] Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. December 2023. Program Update.

[32] ORC § 3796.01(A)(6)(a-u). Qualifying Medical Conditions.

[33] State Medical Board of Ohio. CTR October Newsletter.

[34] State Medical Board of Ohio. CTR Map Search.

[35] Bamboo Health. Medical Marijuana Registry Support Center.

[36] OAC Rule 3796:7-3-01. September 2017. Medical Marijuana Patient and Caregiver Fee Structure.

[37] Ohio Board of Pharmacy. 4 March 2020. Quick Reference Guide Registering With Indigent or Veteran Status.

[38] Medical Marijuana Control Program. List of Ohio Medical Marijuana Dispensaries with Certificates of Opeartion Sorted by County.

[39] US Drug Enforcement Administration. 2020 Drugs of Abuse: A Federal Resource Guide. Federal Trafficking Penalties.

[40] EY. Homepage.

[41] Ohio Department of Commerce. April 2020. Medical Marijuana Control Program Cultivator License Scoring Analysis.

[42] Department of Commerce. 2017. Processor Application Materials.

[43] OAC § 3796:1-8.

[44] Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. 2020 Testing Laboratory Application Materials.

[45] Ohio Board of Pharmacy. September 2017. Ohio District Map.

[46] ORC § 3796.10. September 2017. Economically Disadvantaged Groups.

[47] Ohio Board of Pharmacy. 13 October 2017. First Period Question and Answer Responses. Question 83.

[48] Ohio Board of Pharmacy. 2017. Dispensary Application Materials and Resources.

[49] Ohio Board of Pharmacy. November 2017. Dispensary Application Portal.

[50] Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. 2017. Dispensary Application Instructions.

[51] Ohio Board of Pharmacy. September 2021. Application Materials.

[52] Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. 31 January 2022. RFA II Drawing Results.

[53] Ohio Department of Commerce. 20 October 2023. Medical Marijuana Control Program. Cultivator Licensees.

[54] Ohio Department of Commerce. 20 October 2023. Medical Marijuana Control Program. Processor Licensees.

[55] Ohio Department of Commerce. 20 December 2022. Medical Marijuana Control Program. Testing Laboratories.

[56] Ohio Board of Pharmacy. RFA II – List of Provisional Dispensary Licenses.

[57] Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. Medical Marijuana Dispensary Map.

[58] OAC Rule 3796:6-3-08(O). Dispensing of Medical Marijuana.

[59] Ohio Board of Pharmacy. 14 September 2021. Resolution: Drive-Through Windows for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.

[60] Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. 26 January 2023. Drive-Through Guidance.

[61] ABC 6 Ohio. 8 November 2023. Ohio Voters Legalize Recreational Marijuana.

[62] CNN Business. 9 November 2023. Alicia Wallace. Ohio Just Legalized Cannabis.

[63] Cleveland 5 News. 13 November 2023. Bryn Caswell. Ohio Weed Companies in Limbo Until Lawmakers Decide on Issue 2 Changes.

[64] WKYC 3 News. 8 November 2023. Kaitor Kay. After Passage of Issue 2, Ohio Grow House Prepares for Recreational Marijuana Legalization.

[65] Wayne 15 News. 28 November 2023. Press Release. AYR Wellness Announces Opening of AYR Dispensary Dayton, Third Location in Ohio.

[66] WLWT 5 News. 20 November 2023. Danielle Dindak. Budding Future: Forest Park Facility Prepares for Legalization of Recreational Marijuana.

[67] ORC § 3780.07.

[68] Ohio Secretary of State. Initiative Petition. An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis.

[69] ORC § 3780.29.

[70] HB 354. 6 December 2023. Finance Committee Meeting. Proposed Elimination of ORC § 3780.29(A)(3).

[71] ORC § 3780.33.

[72] Lucas County Ohio Board of Elections.

[73] Wood County Ohio Board of Elections. November 7, 2023 Election Results.

[74] Fairfield County Ohio Board of Elections. November 07, 2023 Election Summary Report.

[75] ORC § 3780.15(A)(3).

[76] US Census Bureau, American Community Survey. 2022. ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates.

[77] BDSA. 7 November 2023. Press Release: BDSA Launches Comprehensive Retail Sales Tracking and Menu Analytics for the Ohio Medical Cannabis Market.

[78] Scioto Analysis. October 2023. Cost-Benefit Analysis of Ohio’s Recreational Cannabis Legalization.

[79] MJBizDaily. Chris Casacchia. 7 November 2023. Ohio Becomes 24th State to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Market.

[80] ORC § 3780.04.

[81] ORC § 3796.06. Forms of Medical Marijuana.

[82] ORC § 5739.

[83] ORC § 3780.23.

[84] ORC § 3780.10.

[85] ORC § 3780.28.

[86] ORC § 3780.01(A)(17)(c).

[87] ORC § 3780.11.

[88] ORC § 3780.03(C)(4).