Ohio high court demands state to broaden medical cannabis cultivation opportunities

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Regulators in Ohio have been informed by the Supreme Court that they cannot ignore applications to broaden the number of medical cannabis cultivation facilities spread across the state.

The decision, which was delivered by Ohio’s highest court in the form of eight pages of legal language, instructs regulators to approve or reject a February 2020-issued application from Fire Rock that sought to increase the size of its grow facility in the city of Akron.

Ohio Supreme Court calls cultivation law a “flawed legal theory”

The application filed by Fire Rock, which is a level two small-scale grower, focuses on doubling its existing 3,000-square-foot facility. Coincidentally, the application coincided with the stock glut and price spikes that Ohio’s medical cannabis program is enduring.

State regulators felt that the application should not be acted on, due to the fact that Ohio law prevents cannabis cultivators from submitting a more wide-ranging application on their own terms. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court described the legality as a “flawed legal theory.”

While the state rule “limits how often a cultivator may submit an expansion application, it does not prohibit a cultivator from submitting an application on its own initiative,” according to the court. The court proceeded to say that the Ohio Department of Commerce has a “clear legal duty to either approve or deny a cultivator’s application.”

The company initially filed an application to expand its cultivation facility upon realizing that it wasn’t capable of growing enough cannabis to meet consumer demand. Included in the company’s application was a detailed floor plan, as well as sales forecasts, an estimated construction timeline and letters from dispensary operators that were keen to procure more products.

Based on an emailed statement from an Ohio State spokesperson, the “Commerce Department has not yet made a decision on the expansion request, but will now do so in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Ohio Representatives have just re-introduced a new cannabis bill

Two congressmen have sponsored a new federal effort to permit medical and recreational cannabis businesses in Ohio with access to banking services. Acknowledged as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, the measure was initially introduced back in 1996, but it struggled to gain approval in the Senate.

Reintroduced on Thursday, March 25 by Reps. Nydia Velasquez, D-N.Y., and Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo, Ohio’s cannabis banking bill previously gained approval in the House in 2019. Unfortunately, it stumbled when it was considered by the formerly-GOP led Senate.

A total of four sponsors currently back the newest version of Ohio’s SAFE Banking Act. which would enable cannabis-focused businesses to open a bank account, apply for loans and access various financial services. Two of those sponsors are Representatives Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, and Warren Davidson, R-Ohio.