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Ohio Medical Marijuana Committee Debates High MMJ Licensing Fees

The state's licensing fees will generate a huge budget surplus for the state.

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This June, Ohio's medical marijuana law came into effect, with plans to be fully operational by next September. However, the state has some of the highest fees of any MMJ-legal state, which has drawn criticism from some state regulators.

Ohio is offering 24 licenses to cultivators, 40 to product processors, and 60 to dispensaries. The fee for applying for any medical marijuana license is a non-refundable $2,000, and growers must pay an additional license fee of $18,000 to $180,000 depending on the size of the grow-op. According to Missy Craddock of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, the program has requested $2.5 million per year for operational costs.  If the state grants all of the licenses that it is making available, the fees on the licenses would bring in $10.8 million, much more than needed to pay the operating costs.

Several advisers on the committee have argued that these fees are too high. “I’m all for the state being properly funded,” said committee member Ted Bibart. “I’m just not for the patient bearing that weight.” Craddock admitted that there was guesswork involved in setting up the program's fees, but believes that a budget surplus is better than a shortfall. “It’s much easier to reduce fees down the line in the future than it is to increase them,” she told the committee.

Craddock also believes that the fees will weed out businesses that might not have enough capital to survive. “It is important for us to make sure that we’re attracting industry that is capitalized enough to get through those cold winters,” she said. “And that is part of the reason for wanting to set some of these fees, to make sure that we have people who are serious enough.”