Ohio high court orders state to act on medical marijuana cultivation expansion

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(This story has been updated with a comment from a state official.)

The Ohio Supreme Court told state regulators they can’t just ignore applications to expand medical marijuana cultivation facilities.

In an eight-page decision, Ohio’s highest court ordered regulators to either approve or deny Fire Rock’s application in February 2020 to expand its Akron cultivation facility.

Fire Rock’s application to double its 3,000-square-foot operation came at a time when Ohio’s MMJ program suffered from product shortages and high prices.

State regulators had defended a decision not to act on the application by arguing that Ohio law prohibited cultivators from submitting an expansion application on their own initiative.

But the Supreme Court called that a “flawed legal theory.”

The court said that although the relevant state rule “limits how often a cultivator may submit an expansion application, it does not prohibit a cultivator from submitting an application on its own initiative.”

The court also said that the Ohio Department of Commerce has a “clear legal duty to either approve or deny (a) cultivator’s application.”

Fire Rock had applied for an expansion, saying it couldn’t grow enough marijuana to meet customer demand.

The company’s application not only included a floor plan and proposed construction timeline, but it also included sales projections and letters from dispensaries that wanted more product.

A state spokesperson wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily on Friday that the “Commerce (Department) has not yet made a decision on the expansion request, but will now do so in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision.”