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Activists Question Proposed Medical Marijuana Rules

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The Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee is considering proposed rules that would permit up to 18 growers in Ohio and make their licensing fees among the highest in the country. And the number of proposed growing sites has upset activists who have questions about the new law. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

The Ohio Department of Commerce's proposed rules would limit the number of marijuana
growing sites to 18. And the proposed licenses and fees for the 12 larger sites
would be $200,000 each. The licenses and fees for the six smaller sites would be
$20,000 dollars each. The marijuana legalization plan that voters rejected in 2015
had 10 proposed growing sites. Critics of that plan had called it a monopoly and a
separate ballot issue was put up to prevent similar proposals in the future. Aaron
Marshall is a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that had started a
push for voter approved medical marijuana, but ended it when it was clear lawmakers
intended to take action on the issue.
 
"So ten is a monopoly but 18 is fine, huh?"
 
Marshall says the Marijuana Policy Project plan would only have allowed 15 large
growing sites, but it would have allowed an unlimited number of small growing sites
- each with just a $5000 license fee.
 
"You know it's puzzling to us. Apparently they want to shut out the Ma and Pa shops.
Why not give Ohio entrepreneurs and small business people ample opportunity to get
into this growing industry? And generally speaking, we think that there's simply not
enough growing space that's going to be allocated under these rules."
 
Marshall says his group estimates there will be about 190,000 medical marijuana
patients in Ohio once this new law is up and running. And he says the limit of 18
growing sites will make it hard to get enough product to meet the demand.
 
A written statement from the Ohio Department of Commerce says the agency benchmarked
the number of growing sites against other states and talked with industry experts.
It further states the goal was to develop a program that is flexible to allow it to
respond to changes in demand. The plan allows for more licenses after September of
2018, the date when the new law needs to be fully operational, provided there is a
demonstrated need for more sites. The newly proposed rules are up for public comment
right now. And legislators on two separate government related panels will also be
weighing in on the proposals.

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