Slowing down also wasn’t an option for the board, which began discussing this process early this year in response to patient complaints about high prices and long drives to dispensaries.
Licenses could be awarded in January or February, Maerten-Moore said, about half the time as the first round.
Pharmacy board moves ahead with license process
There are ways Ohio could encourage greater equity in the industry without changing the law, said Eric Foster, national policy director for advocacy group Minorities for Medical Marijuana. Among those: asking businesses to commit to diverse hiring practices or requiring licensees spend a certain amount on minority vendors.
But there was one big change made to the process: A lottery to determine which qualified applicants get one or more licenses from a limited number awarded.
Ohio’s equity provision shut down
Cultivation and dispensary licenses were awarded in 2017 and 2018 under state law that required 15% of all marijuana licenses go to businesses owned by a member of one of those “economically disadvantaged” groups. That part of the law was later struck down by court and won’t be in place for this second application round for 73 new licenses that begins this month.
“When patients come back to us and say, ‘Wow, that really helped stimulate my appetite when I was going through chemo,’ then I know that that’s something I know I want to keep in the rotation because of that unique characteristic that that plant has,” DeJesus says. “And those are things that as an industry I think we’re still learning.”
Wearing a ballcap and scrubs to prevent contamination, Korff navigates through several so-called clean transition rooms with a keycard to enter the heart of his operations — rows on top of rows of 3-to-4-foot-tall plants.
Korff acknowledges none of this has been easy. The $56 million in sales statewide in 2019 was lower than most analysts were projecting for the first year.
But for the people who have invested in this budding industry, the wait is just as thrilling. Liz Falkenstein is Galenas’ quality assurance director. She used to work in the marijuana industry in Colorado.
A lawyer and a longtime marijuana advocate, Korff was among about a dozen applicants to be awarded a smaller, Level 2 cultivator’s license to grow medical marijuana in Ohio. Galenas is one of two such cultivators in Akron.
“No one’s making money,” Korff says. “Everyone built these facilities with the expectation that the market in Ohio was going to start slow and grow over time. But it doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s a lot of misconceptions that everyone’s making millions, and we’re just printing money, and it’s not the case.”
One year into Ohio’s medical marijuana program, cultivators, processors and dispensaries are still learning how to navigate this complex new industry.
“We’re not hidden anywhere, and we did that somewhat intentionally,” said CEO Geoff Korff. “This is an industry where we don’t feel like we need to hide or apologize for anything. This is the thing that’s coming, that’s going to be good for everybody.”
From The ‘Mother Room’