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Ohio medical marijuana sales peak as adult-use market launch remains stalled

Sales of medical marijuana in Ohio’s tightly restricted market appear to have peaked, as state lawmakers continue to stall on launching the state’s recently legalized adult-use marketplace.

Licensed retailers reported selling $484 million of medical cannabis in 2023, according to state sales figures first reported in Crain’s Cleveland Business.

That’s below initial MJBizDaily projections and represents growth of only 1% from 2022 to 2023, as Crain’s noted.

It also underscores the necessity for Ohio lawmakers to take quicker action and launch an adult-use marketplace, as Republican Gov. Mike DeWine recently said.

Observers say the Ohio medical marijuana slowdown is at least partially attributable to strict rules that limit patient access in Ohio – as well as recreational cannabis available in nearby Michigan.

There are only 175,484 patients in Ohio with both an active recommendation from a physician as well as an active registration in a state database, according to Ohio Department of Commerce figures.

That’s considered low for a state with Ohio’s relatively high population, especially when compared to nearby Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania, with a population of nearly 13 million, has 433,638 registered patients, according to state data.

Sales in that state were on track to approach $1.5 billion for 2023.

Operators of Michigan adult-use cannabis dispensaries near the Ohio border say as many as half of their customers live in Ohio.

Nearly 12 million people live in Ohio, which became the 24th state to legalize adult-use marijuana in November, but still has no clear path to iniating sales.

More than 55% of voters approved Issue 2 in November.

Possession and cultivation became legal in December.

Adult-use cannabis sales could total $1.5 billion in a program’s first year, according to MJBizDaily forecasts.

However, Ohio law grants state lawmakers broad powers to amend voter initiatives.

And state legislators in Columbus have yet to pass a regulatory bill that might speed opening of the state’s adult-use market ahead of this fall, when the voter initiative says sales could begin.

That all amounts to a “goofy situation” that is “not what people intended,” said DeWine, who opposed Issue 2.

“All this is doing is fostering a bigger black market because people think they can buy it legally and advertising is being done.”

DeWine called on the state General Assembly “to take action and fix that.”

“Give us the authority to start selling legal marijuana in the state of Ohio,” he said, according to The Intelligencer.

“The way that we would have to do it, to start with at least, is to do it through the medical dispensaries,” DeWine added.

“We could do that and probably turn that on within about 60 days after the Legislature passes an initiative.”

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