Ohioans who want to take up a medical marijuana business encouraged regulators on Monday to issue the few lucrative cultivator licenses to Ohio residents only.

As it stands now, the Ohio Department of Commerce intends to grant up to 12 large grow licenses and 12 small grow licenses statewide,licenses based on standards including a company’s business plan, security measures and industry experience.

Evidence that the company is based in Ohio, owned by Ohioans and intends to hire local workers factor into the review but aren’t required.

Kelly Mottola, who owns Hydro Innovations in Hilliard, said out-of-state companies will want to bring out-of-state workers.

“We’re the ones who fought for this,” Mottola said during a public meeting about the proposed cultivator licensing procedure. “Letting people from outside the state isn’t benefiting Ohio or Ohioans or our unemployment.”

Several individuals spoke in favor of a residency requirement during the last public comment period on the cultivator rules. Others criticized the high cultivator fees, which would be more expensive than programs in all but two medical marijuana states, as well as the requirement that local officials approve of a business plan to locate there.

A panel of state lawmakers will meet in a couple of weeks to review the rules, which should be finalized by May 6.

Residency requirements

Residency requirements have been part of numerous other states’ recreational and medical marijuana programs. For instance, Colorado required licensees live in the state at least two years prior to submitting an application for a license. Lawmakers there lately reduced the requirement to a year and allowed greater out-of-state investment.

Ohio has no such requirement for cultivators, processors or dispensary owners, but testing laboratories are restricted to Ohio colleges and universities for the first year of the program.

The case for out-of-state investment

Most of the plans for dispensaries and cultivation centers bubbling up across the state come from Ohioans partnering with out-of-state companies and consultants. The Ohioans have links with local officials and in-state investors; the out-of-state companies bring much-needed knowledge and capital of the best way to complete legal- intensive license applications and run a successful marijuana business.

Cultivator requirements have been changing

Ohio’s medical marijuana law allows individuals with one of 21 medical conditions to purchase and use marijuana if recommended by a doctor. Most of the facts of the program, such as who will grow and sell marijuana and how much patients can purchase, were left to three state agencies.

Rules were developed by the Department of Commerce for cultivators, which have been revised after two public comment periods.