The state of Ohio has put itself in a bit of a bind. Lawmakers have raised concerns recently that their new medical cannabis program will not be up and running in time to meet the September 8, 2018 deadline. The problem is not interest in growing, but interest in testing cannabis products.
The issue stems from Senator Frank LaRose, who requested adding language into the bill approving the program, which limited testing licenses to Ohio colleges. LaRose’s district includes the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, of Ohio State University (OSU) and he worked with OSU officials to craft the amendment’s language.
“They were gung-ho about hosting the state lab, and jumped in with both feet on it,” said LaRose. “I’m sure there are great, third-party, for-profit entities out there that could do this work, but this is something we have the capability to do right here.”
However, at this point, neither OSU or any other Ohio-based colleges have elected to pursue making their own cannabis testing lab, over fears of losing federal funding. “As the state of Ohio implements the program to allow for the cultivation, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana, OSU looks to engage as an appropriate partner, while at the same time complying with federal, state and local laws,” said OSU spokesman Ben Johnson.
Other states have tried to bring colleges into the cannabis business, but fears over federal funding have historically won out. Maryland’s attempts to get state university medical schools to dispense cannabis delayed their process by four years. In Louisiana, agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University were tapped for growing and extraction last year, but both universities are instead partnering with private companies to grow for them.
Ohioans have some time to fix this, but not much. The earliest licenses could be awarded to non-university labs would be June 5th, based on the submission of cultivator licenses. For now, lawmakers like Senator Bill Coley are still giving universities a chance to apply, but they won’t wait forever. “If in fact, over the summer, one steps up, then we’ll be OK,” said Coley. “But if not, we’ll probably address it in the fall.”