Medical marijuana could be coming to a street near you.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced the 56 dispensary statewide license recipients Monday.
Steven Schierholt, the board's director, said his team took several precautions to guarantee the applications were scored properly, adding that the state contracted an outside consulting group, Atlanta-based North Highland, to assist in the process.
"We were very sensitive to some of the problems the Department of Commerce had with their scoring and the criticism they received," Schierholt said.
The dispensary announcement is an important step in the more than two-year process the state is in the midst of to get medical marijuana to eligible patients. The announcement was delayed last month because the pharmacy board had yet to complete validating the minimum requirements for applicants, such as background checks. State law says the program must be "fully operational" by Sept. 8.
Dispensaries are the retail component of the multifaceted new industry where consumers — in this case patients and caregivers— actually go to pick up the product once they have a doctor-recommended and state-approved medical card.
Each applicant had to pay a $5,000 upfront fee and those selected must pay a $20,000 biennial renewal fee.
So far, the state agencies tasked with getting the program up and running has given provisional licenses to cultivators, doctors and now dispensaries. Testing labs and product processors tasked with turning the cannabis into edibles and other forms are still awaiting licenses.
The Board of Pharmacy said it expects to launch its patient registry system sometime next month and opened a toll-free helpline Monday to assist patients.
Franklin County will receive five dispensaries in total scattered across Columbus.
The dispensary awardees are:
•Greenleaf Apothecaries, located at 111 Vine Street across from the North Market.
•Harvest of Ohio, located at 2950 N. High St., just south of Weber Road.
•127 OH, located at 1361 Georgesville Rd, adjacent to the Walmart off I-270.
•Verdant Creations, which does not have a building site yet, just a parcel of land on Cassady Avenue.
•Cannamed Therapeutics, located at 656 Grandview Avenue, directly next to a bar, Woodland’s Backyard.
Out of the six counties surrounding Columbus, only two — Licking and Fairfield — were awarded dispensaries.
Licking County received three, all located in Newark. Fairfield County received one dispensary, located in Carroll, near Lancaster.
Selling medical cannabis is big business that hundreds of companies vied to join.
There were more than 370 applications in total and 69 applicants for the five Franklin County sites alone, making it the most competitive district. The winning dispensaries statistically had roughly a 7 percent chance of receiving a license.
Most central Ohio communities — including Worthington, Hilliard and Dublin — passed resolutions banning any marijuana related businesses from operating within city limits. With so many cities opposing the budding industry, Columbus was bound to get virtually all of the dispensary locations.
During the application process, prospective operators had to file proof the location was in a municipality without a moratorium or ban.
The dispensaries are prohibited from being located within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground, public park or community addiction services provider.
The dispensary locations across the state were broken up into four different regions and 28 districts in an effort to evenly disperse the dispensaries to better accommodate patients. Franklin County was a district in of itself, receiving the most dispensaries, along with Cuyahoga County.
Columbus has been considering local code changes for dispensaries for more than a year, but the city administration still is working on them, said Tony Celebrezze, assistant director in the city’s Department of Building and Zoning Services.
No deadline has been set for the code changes.
"The dispensaries now have licenses and they’re going to be filing for site plans and building plans and so we need to make sure, any code changes that we want, that we get them into the code as soon as possible," he said.
Dispatch Reporter Rick Rouan contributed to this story.