Racial Quotas in Ohio Medical Cannabis Program

A judge has ruled that racial quotas in Ohio’s medical cannabis law that requires 15 percent of licensed companies to be owned by members of “economically disadvantaged groups” is unconstitutional.

Madison County Common Pleas Judge Eamon Costello also ordered that Pure Ohio Wellness LLC should get another hearing before the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to decide whether it should be granted a dispensary license, according to a Cleveland.com report.

All parties involved in the lawsuit have agreed that Pure Ohio had the highest score among all the dispensary license applicants in Madison, Fayette and Greene Counties, a region set to get only one dispensary, but Pure Ohio, which is not minority-owned, lost to a minority-owned applicant, – apparently based on racial quotas.

The Board of Pharmacy has argued that the section of the law regarding economically disadvantaged groups (racial quotas) allows the state to address racial discrimination in the licensing process, but Costello ruled that the board’s arguments in favor of the racial quotas apply to government contracts with minority-owned businesses and not businesses that are licensees, according to Cleveland.com. Costello also ruled that the board has not provided statistical evidence that prove that there was indeed racial discrimination present in Ohio’s medical cannabis industry in the first place, the news outlet reported. Under Costello’s ruling, the law must be more specific.

The Board of Pharmacy is reviewing the ruling and discussing whether to appeal it with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The Back Story on these Racial Quotas

The pharmacy board awarded limited the number of dispensary licenses to 60 allocated among 31 districts consisting of one or more counties. At least nine had to go to businesses owned by someone from one of several “economically disadvantaged” groups: African-Americans, American Indians, Hispanics or Latinos, or Asians.

In order to get to nine, the board awarded licenses to minority-owned businesses over higher-scoring applicants. One of those applicants was Pure Ohio Wellness.

Pure Ohio Wellness was the highest-scoring dispensary applicant in the district, encompassing Fayette, Madison and Greene counties. But third-ranked Harvest of Ohio LLC was awarded the sole license for the district.