Weed Is Legal in Ohio — When Will Dispensaries Start Opening in the State?


Nov. 8 2023, Published 10:32 a.m. ET

Verdi Cannabis in New York City.
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • Ohio voted to legalize recreational marijuana on Nov. 7, 2023, and the law goes into effect on Dec. 7, leading many to wonder when dispensaries will start to open — and you may be disappointed.
  • Much like alcohol, marijuana will be treated as a controlled substance in the state.
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Following the election on Nov. 7, 2023, Ohio has voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Issue 2 will allow adults who are 21 and older to purchase, possess, and grow marijuana inside the state. Following the news that Ohio has legalized recreational marijuana, becoming the 24th state to do so, many wanted to better understand what the timeline might be for the implementation of this law.

Ohioans are obviously excited about the announcement of the policy, but there are a few caveats that are worth understanding for what shape the law may ultimately take.

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adults voting
Source: Getty images

When will dispensaries open in Ohio?

Issue 2 will officially become law on Dec. 7, 2023, so dispensaries will be legally allowed to operate in the state after that point. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that dispensaries will be opening on that date. In fact, it could take significantly longer for retailers to begin selling marijuana. In fact, while it will be legal to possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis on Dec. 7 and anytime afterward, new sellers won't be allowed to open in Ohio for two years.

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That's because the Division of Cannabis Control first has to set rules on licensing, product standards, packaging, and many other things. From there, the state has nine months to issue the first round of licenses to growers, processors, and dispensaries. This initial round of licenses will all be going to existing medical marijuana sellers and operators, and the state won't be able to dole out another round of licenses for two years after that.

"It takes a minute to get everything in place," Brian Kessler, CEO of Youngstown-based Riviera Creek, a medical marijuana cultivator, told Cincinatti.com. "At this point, what we are anticipating is somewhere between mid-summer to mid-fall is when it will actually start becoming a reality. It doesn’t happen on Nov. 30."

Clearly, then, just because it's now legal doesn't mean that you'll be able to get weed at will in Ohio all that soon.

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Can you smoke weed in public in Ohio?

Although it's now legal to smoke in Ohio, that doesn't mean you can do it anywhere at any time. Marijuana will be treated as a controlled substance, much like alcohol, which means that individual establishments may allow you to smoke on their premises, but you'll be hit with a misdemeanor if you try to do it on the street. And, unlike alcohol, the distinctive odor makes you much more likely to be caught smoking.

Tweaks to the law could be made by the state legislature before it is ultimately formalized. Even so, marijuana will be legal in Ohio, and eventually, you'll also be able to buy it there.

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