COLUMBUS -- Ohio is still more than a year away from fully launching the new state program that will oversee medical marijuana use in the state.
But in the 12 months since lawmakers passed and Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation allowing the drug in Ohio, three state agencies and a new panel have been busy finalizing the rules that will control how marijuana is grown, processed, tested and sold.
Here are 10 things you should know about where things stand on medical marijuana in Ohio:
1. The Beginning: HB 523 outlined the process for adopting rules for the cultivation, testing and dispensing of the drug, with three state agencies spearheading the process.
The Department of Commerce is handling the licensing of cultivators, processors and testing laboratories. The state pharmacy board will license retail dispensaries and handle patient and caregiver registrations. The state medical board will issue certificates for physicians who will recommend use of the drug.
2. Progress to Date: The Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee had its first meeting in November, around the same time that initial rules were released for public comment.
To date, more than 30 rules have been adopted, mostly related to cultivators, the groups that will be growing medicinal marijuana in the state.
Kerry Francis, a spokeswoman at the Ohio Department of Commerce, said the initial rules focused on general definitions and other groundwork for the program, plus those that will control the cultivation of the drug.
Ultimately, state officials are focused on two things: "We want to make sure that we are protecting the safety of the public [and ensuring] a safe medical product," Francis said.
3. Growing Marijuana: Don't expect to drive through the Ohio countryside past green fields of marijuana waving in the wind. Rules require the plants to be grown in highly secured facilities, out of the public eye.
Growers have to complete an extensive application process to be considered for the limited number of licenses that will be made available.
There are two levels of cultivator licenses. Level I will cover larger facilities (initial operations up to 25,000 square feet), while Level II will cover smaller ones (initial areas up to 3,000 square feet).
There will be a dozen licenses awarded by state officials for each level (24 total), with provisions in the rules for additional licenses in the future, should demand warrant increased production.
Level II applications will be accepted between Monday and June 16, while Level I applications will be accepted June 19-30.
4. Show Me the Money: There's a cost to get your foot in the door. Level I applicants have to pay $20,000 up front, while Level II pay $2,000 when submitting their initial application.
Those initial fees are nonrefundable.
If selected for a provisional, license, cultivators will have to pay an additional $180,000 for Level I and $18,000 for Level II certificates. Licenses have to be renewed annually, at a cost of $200,000 for Level I and $20,000 for Level II.
5. Who Gets Licensed: The application process is extensive, requiring names of people involved, criminal background checks, disclosures of ties to marijuana operations in other states and evidence that proposed cultivation sites are either owned or leased by applicants.
That's not to mention business plans, details about proposed facilities, staffing and employment information, inventory tracking methods and disclosures of everything from the types of fertilizers and pesticides to be used to how waste will be disposed.
Just because you pay your application fee and submit all of the requisite paperwork, that doesn't mean you automatically get a license to produce medical marijuana. There's a scoring process the state will use to make final licensing decisions.
6. Restrictions Apply: Growing facilities can't be located within 500 feet of schools, churches, playgrounds and parks and other public areas.
Also, municipalities have the authority to restrict or prohibit cultivation and other medical marijuana activities.
7. The Application Itself: There's also a whole series of specific submission requirements for the actual application paperwork.
For example, submissions must be hand delivered to the Ohio Department of Commerce's offices near the Statehouse between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the acceptance periods for the two application levels.
Applicants must include "one paper copy of the application in 12-point font on standard white 8.5x11 copy paper, with margins no smaller than 3/4-inch." Applicants also must provide digital copies of their submissions on a CD or DVD.
An information packet posted online notes, "Applications that do not contain all of the required elements in the required format will not be accepted."
8. The Approval Process: Francis said there's no timeline for when decisions will be made on which cultivators will receive licenses, though that process likely will be completed before the end of the year to provide time for licensees to have their operations in place by September 2018, when the program is supposed to be fully up and running.
9. What's Next: State officials tackled the cultivator rules first, but there are other rules that will be developed in coming months covering testing labs, processors, dispensaries and doctors who will recommend the use of medical marijuana.
All of the rules are supposed to be finalized by September.
10. Reminder: Under Ohio's medical marijuana law, doctors will have to direct medical marijuana use for their patients, with limits on the amount of the drug they could possess. The law lists more than 20 medical conditions that would qualify for marijuana use. It also bans smoked forms of the drug and home-grown supplies.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.