The Ohio Department of Commerce received approval to set aside $2 million for costs associated with lawsuits and appeals regarding the medical marijuana licensing and application process. The Department of Commerce is a defendant in three separate lawsuits. It is not the only body overseeing the medical marijuana program in the state.
Sixty-seven applicants are challenging the scoring process and have filed administrative hearings appealing the ruling of the department, according to Cleveland.com. The state received 185 applications to cultivate medical marijuana and approved 24 applications.
The additional funding approved for the Department of Commerce brings the two-year budget for the medical marijuana program to just over $16 million. Licensing fees are expected to cover most of that budget.
The $2 million in extra funding, according to senior policy director Mark Hamlin, will be spent on third-party score validation and other legal fees. Another $2 million, already allocated, will help pay for the required seed-to-sale tracking system, electronic licensing and video surveillance systems.
Ernst & Young will complete the third-party scoring analysis. Squire Patton Boggs will act as special counsel.
Hamlin said, “We believe that the process is legal and valid. We want to improve it but we think it’s absolutely a solid foundation on which to move forward with the licensing and will stand up to the Ernst & Young review, as well as to the administrative hearings and the courts.”
The newly adjusted budget also allows the state to hire eight more staff members. Reports indicate that the state has already spent $3.7 million setting up the state’s medical marijuana program since May 2016. So far, $5.3 million in application fees have been received. It is estimated that roughly $8.74 million will be received for licensing fees annually – those funds will help with the regulatory oversight of the program.