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$1.8 million requested to start up Ohio’s medical marijuana program

Two state agencies are asking for $1.8 million to get Ohio’s new medical marijuana program off the ground.

The Department of Commerce and State Board of Pharmacy, two of the three state agencies that will regulate the program, plans to request money for the new Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program on Monday from the state controlling board. A spokeswoman for the State Medical Board of Ohio, the third entity, said it does not plan to request an appropriation in the near future.

Most of the money will be used to hire nine staff members to help write the rules and regulations for the new medical marijuana program, including how growers and dispensaries will be licensed and how patients will register with the program. The rest will be spent on consultants, stipends for advisory committee members and supplies.

The agencies plan to reimburse the costs with future marijuana business license fees, which won’t start rolling in until next year at the earliest. The program must be “fully operational” by September 2018, according to the law.

Here’s how each agency plans to spend the money.

Department of Commerce: $923,077

The Department of Commerce is tasked with drafting rules and regulations for medical marijuana cultivators, processors that make marijuana products and testing labs. The department has a May 2017 deadline to set the cultivator license application process and has already posted two positions and requested applications for a cultivation consultant.

The requested funding will cover:

  • $421,978 for five employees
  • $300,000 for consultants and initial development for databases
  • $171,099 for supplies, rent, travel and administrative costs
  • $30,000 for computer equipment and a car

Pharmacy Board: $882,400

The pharmacy board will license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, operate the patient registry and decide what types of marijuana and paraphernalia will be allowed under the law. The board is not allowed by law to approve any method that involves smoking.

The board will also decide whether to add or remove qualifying medical conditions.

A 14-member advisory committee, appointed by Gov. John Kasich and legislative leaders, will be housed under the pharmacy board. The board will employ an attorney and legal assistant and pay per diem travel costs to board members.

The requested funding will cover:

  • $302,000 for payroll
  • $521,700 to develop patient and caregiver registration system and upgrades to the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System, which tracks all prescriptions for controlled substances
  • $55,124 for supplies, short term facility renovations and personnel travel
  • $3,576 for equipment

Medical Board

The medical board will adopt rules and procedures for physicians who want to register to recommend medical marijuana.

Board spokeswoman Tessie Pollock said the board is still working through potential costs and does not plan to ask for additional funding in the near future.

But the board estimated $300,000 in annual costs when the bill passed:

  • $75,000 to examine applications (estimated 6,000 certificate applications)
  • $180,000 to investigate complaints (estimated 360 complaints)
  • $37,500 to draft and file rules (estimated 750 hours)
  • $10,000 for ongoing information technology development and maintenance

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