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US (OH): Cannabis market shifting towards larger companies

Two years ago, more than 20 multi-state operators were trying to get into Ohio or expand their footprint here through acquisitions, and in most cases, state regulators granted the request. Since October 2019, seven cultivators, eight processors, and 28 dispensaries have changed hands. All but six acquisitions were by multi-state operators. 

The shift toward more large companies operating in Ohio was disheartening to Herb Washington, a co-owner of Leaf Relief dispensary in Boardman. "That’s a clear indictment for the need to balance the scales so that small operators can participate," Washington said.

Industry observers note it is difficult to enter a legal cannabis market as an independent operator without previous industry experience or assistance from a successful cannabis business. Applications can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare including the application fee, surveying costs, attorneys' and accountants' fees, architect services, and rent while the application is pending.

"In this space it's hard to function any other way," said Doug Berman, director of Ohio State University's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. "It's not an easy startup space and there's a complicated regulatory scheme. The bigger players are going to know how to do that better."

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