Ohio’s MMJ Program Slowly But Surely Taking Shape

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Ohio’s legalized medical marijuana went into effect nearly four months ago, but, like so many U.S. states, figuring out who can grow it, sell it and use it could take awhile.

As one Ohioan told HIGH TIMES over the holidays, “2016 may have been a big year for legalization, but it’s going to take 2017, or beyond, to clarify what that really means and how it will play out.”

Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is currently creating rules on who can grow, recommend and dispense MMJ. Those involved in these decisions are spread across several government agencies, making the process even more cumbersome. Although we know September 2018 is the deadline to finish writing and implementing these rules and recommendations.

We also know that becoming an MMJ patient in Ohio is a challenge in itself. Only 30 percent of doctors who took an Ohio Medical Board Survey said they were likely to recommend cannabis to qualifying patients.

One tiny positive point in this maze of bureaucracy is that patients can use medical weed obtained from other states. Thankfully, neighboring Michigan has full reciprocity.

“If Ohio doctors aren’t willing to participate, others may move into the state to fulfill demand,” said Ohioans for Medical Marijuana spokesman Aaron Marshall.

“The sad part of this process, being as slow as it is, is patients are being left to fend for themselves,” Marshall added.

So, who can grow?

The Ohio Department of Commerce is recommending 24 initial grow sites—12 large and 12 smaller.

MMJ advocates are concerned that won’t be enough to start serving the anticipated 188,000 patients (two percent of Ohio’s 11.5 million). Severe pain is among Ohio’s 20 qualifying conditions, which generally boosts the number of applicants.

Although everyone admits this is better than the failed 2015 ballot, which sought only 10 sites reserved for wealthy investors.

To avoid a monopoly, no grower can own more than one site and they will be divvied up among different geographic sections of the state.

Well, what about access?

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy recommended setting up 40 dispensaries by September 2018, with at least one pharmacist, nurse, physician or physician’s assistant on site or easily reached, with the option of adding more sites in the future.

And who can get a license?

Draft rules for growers and dispensaries follow a trend in other legislative-led MMJ states, although applying for a license will be expensive and competitive.

Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman said the cost won’t drive investors away. Berman, who teaches a course about marijuana law and policy, said Ohio has an opportunity to enter an industry that is growing exponentially, especially as more states legalize recreational weed.

“Ohio got in early enough to take advantage of the excitement the industry is building and the opportunity it creates for local investors and players to be part of the industry,” Berman said.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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