Medical marijuana could be available to patients in Ohio as soon as Jan. 15, according to representatives of a cannabis dispensary and testing lab preparing to open in the state. Jason Erkes, a spokesman for Cresco Labs’ CY+ dispensary in Wintersville, Jefferson County, said the business should be ready to open by that date.
“We’re targeting the week of the 15th for the store in Wintersville,” said Erkes. “But everything has to line up.”
To meet that timeline, a cannabis testing laboratory will also have to open. Under state law, random tests for pesticides and purity are required before medical marijuana may be sold. Joe Moorhead of North Coast Testing Laboratories LLC said that his company passed its final inspection with the state and is in the process of validating its lab equipment with cannabis recently harvested in Ohio.
“Our drop-dead date looks like it’ll be January 15,” Moorhead said.
Flower Only at First
Initially, only cannabis flower will be available to registered patients at Ohio medical marijuana dispensaries. Smoking cannabis is prohibited under state regulations, but vaporizing flower and other marijuana products are permitted. Cannabis topicals, edibles, and extracts for vaping will also eventually be available, but none of the medical marijuana manufacturers that have received provisional licenses from the state have yet been granted a certificate of operation.
Erkes said that CY+ will open with a limited selection of cannabis flower from a small number of licensed cultivators, including a 40,000 square foot facility operated by Cresco Labs in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
“It will be a gradual rollout where there will be a limited supply of flower at first,” said Erkes.
Another cultivator, Buckeye Relief in Eastlake, Ohio, has completed two cannabis harvests and is ready for testing labs to come online.
Mark Hamlin, a senior policy advisor at the Ohio Department of Commerce, said that additional growers are expected to be ready to harvest soon.
“We’ve seen kind of the choppy beginnings in every state that has done this,” Hamlin said. “But we do think that what we are seeing from the other cultivators coming from behind that it’s going to ramp up pretty steadily even in January and into the spring.”
Program Behind Schedule
Ohio’s medical cannabis program was passed into law by the Ohio General Assembly in 2016 and was supposed to be operational by September of last year. But lawsuits, delays in awarding licenses to cannabis operators, and a lack of leadership from Gov. John Kasich have led to the rollout of the program to be four months behind schedule.
To qualify for the Ohio medical marijuana program, patients must have one or more of 21 qualifying medical conditions including cancer, severe chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis. Qualifying patients must receive a doctor’s recommendation to participate in the program.
In the first four weeks of operation of the Ohio Patient and Caregiver Registry, doctors have issued nearly 5,000 medical marijuana recommendations. More than 3,500 of those patients and caregivers have already activated their medical marijuana e-cards, according to data released by the state on Monday.