Advocates say 'massive marijuana expansion bill' would only hurt Ohio's medical marijuana program

Medical marijuana
Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-06 18:38:21-05

CINCINNATI — A new bill in the state legislature could make major changes to Ohio's medical marijuana program.

During a press conference Monday, the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association (OMCIA) spoke out against Senate Bill 9, just one day ahead of a hearing on the legislation. Matt Close, OMCIA’s executive director, said there are some things in the bill that he believes will destroy Ohio's medical marijuana program.

"We strongly oppose Senate Bill 9," Close said. "It's about economics 101 — it's supply and demand. This is simply a massive marijuana expansion bill."

Close said Ohio currently has an oversupply of medical marijuana. He said sales are declining and there are not enough patients. If passed, SB9 would create a 13-member medical marijuana oversight commission. The board of pharmacy would be taken out of the program and the department of commerce would exclusively manage the program.

SB9 allows for an additional 2 million square feet of cultivation space and would award current operators 60+ new dispensary licenses.

Some medical marijuana cultivators and processors, like Daniel Kessler, believe the bill will hurt their business.

"Unfortunately, Senate Bill 9 punishes companies like mine that have invested hundreds of millions of development dollars into the state," Kessler said. "This program expansion adds immense supply to an already oversupplied market."

He said he has hundreds of pounds of materials that he can't sell due to a lack of patients.

"If the current oversupply multiplies with new licensees, an overabundance for excess supply will encourage these new licensees to sell excess inventory into the black and gray markets," said Kessler.

Those in support of the bill, like Jimmy Gould, would disagree. The owner of a medical marijuana cultivation facility in Wilmington, Gould said the current medical marijuana program isn't working.

"Look, I'm the guy that helped create it. I led the legalization of it and fought a lot of people. I'm not happy about the way that it's going," Gould said. "I want to make it better. Senate Bill 9 makes it better."

Gould said prices need to come down for the program to be successful.

“I think the fact that they came out today with opposition … they're trying to get legislators and politicians and anybody that will listen to them to accept their greed," he said. "That's all it is, is greed."

The OMCIA recommended adding anxiety, depression and insomnia as qualifying conditions, to make the program more accessible. Gould said that is something he would agree with.

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