REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio (AP) -- Some Ohioans wanting to start a medical marijuana business are urging regulators to add a residency requirement, at least initially, for businesses getting the state's few lucrative cultivator licenses.
The Ohio Department of Commerce currently plans to award up to 12 large grow licenses and 12 small grow licenses statewide based on criteria including a company's business plan, security measures and experience. The rules now don't require that growers be Ohio residents, although proof that a company is headquartered in Ohio, owned by Ohioans and plans to hire in-state workers is part of the review.
Many Ohioans speaking at a public hearing this week in the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg on the proposed medical marijuana growing rules urged state regulators to add a residency requirement for grower licensing.
"We're the ones who fought for this," said Kelly Mottola, owner of Hydro Innovations in Hilliard. "Allowing people from outside the state is not benefiting Ohio or Ohioans or our unemployment."
Kevin Schmidt, of the Marijuana Policy Project, believes it could prove difficult for Ohio entrepreneurs to compete for licenses with more experienced out-of-state companies. But Jason Kabbes, a marijuana cultivator based in Oregon, said there are likely other native Ohioans living out of state who would want to work in the industry back home.
"When you say these other folks in the industry are outsiders, they care about cannabis just as much as anybody and may care as much about Ohio as much as you guys," Kabbes said.
Residency requirements have been included in several other states' medical and recreational marijuana programs.
A panel of state lawmakers will review the rules, which must be finalized by May 6.
Other proposed rules discussed at the hearing would require large cultivators to pay a $20,000 application fee, $180,000 license fee and $200,000 annual renewal fee. Small growers would have to pay a $2,000 application fee, $18,000 first-year licensing fee and $20,000 annual renewal fee.
Ohio's medical marijuana law permits residents with one of the state's pre-approved medical conditions and diseases to buy and use marijuana only if such treatment is recommended by a physician.