Improve your chances of obtaining a medical marijuana business license

The decision to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio represents an incredible business opportunity for Ohioans. But not everyone who applies for a medical marijuana processing or retail dispensing license in this highly competitive industry will be successful.

To succeed, one must have a sound business plan and enough lead time to properly execute it. Applicants will also need to be well capitalized with a strong (and patient) investor base. Keep in mind that traditional lenders, such as banks, have still not entered the arena because medical marijuana, while legal in the state of Ohio, is still considered illegal under federal law.

Applicants will also need to have identified and obtained local approval for a location (real estate) from which they will operate the marijuana processing or dispensary operations. This can be a difficult task because no medical marijuana processor or retail dispensary may be located within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground, or public park.

The medical marijuana business is not for those who are risk-adverse, nor is it suited for procrastinators. The $10,000 processor application fee and the $5,000 retail dispensary fee are non-refundable. It takes time and a considerable amount of effort to prepare an application that will be seen by the state of Ohio as a viable candidate for a medical marijuana processing or dispensing license. Competition is expected to be fierce based on the number of applications that were received for the medical marijuana cultivation licenses earlier this year.

In addition to the non-refundable application fees, potential applicants can expect to incur legal and other advisory fees. The cost to bring in third-party advisors, however, will likely prove to be a wise investment as most applicants will need to rely on their expertise to help navigate the myriad restrictions and requirements.

With the large number of applicants expected, only the best applications will be considered. The state is looking for applicants who are well-capitalized, responsible and reliable, since license holders will be tasked with the responsibility to provide medicine to what is expected to be a large patient base in Ohio.

In order to assist would-be applicants to optimize their chances for securing a license or to help prospects determine whether it makes sense to pursue this one-of-a-kind business opportunity, Walter | Haverfield has teamed up with other cannabis industry professionals to host a free educational seminar on Thursday, Oct. 5. Among other things, the seminar will cover: important deadlines and requirements for application; zoning restrictions; risk management and insurance options; security requirements; tax consequences; and tips for raising the necessary capital.

This seminar provides an opportunity to connect with a wide array of professionals to get the answers you need before you make the decision to pursue a medical marijuana processing or dispensing license. You can register for the free seminar by visiting www.walterhav.com.

Kevin Patrick Murphy is a partner and chair of Walter | Haverfield's Corporate Transactions practice group.

This article was published in Crain's Cleveland Business on October 3, 2017.