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The State of Medical Marijuana in Ohio
2020 Grade: B
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
Ohio continues efforts to organize a functional medical cannabis system since first opening licensed medical cannabis businesses to serve patients in 2019. Of the 57 dispensaries licenced to serve the state, 51 are now open.44 Of the 32 authorized cultivators, twenty are operational. Meanwhile only 14 of 43 authorized medical cannabis processors have been licensed. 2019 also saw state regulators review petitions to include 27 new conditions eligible for participation in the state’s medical 45access program, and reject all but one for Cachexia/Wasting Syndrome.46
ASA applauds the state’s efforts to deem medical cannabis businesses essential during the COVID pandemic, and organize other access features to assist patients such as permitting curbside pickup and allowing patients to reenroll in the state’s program via telehealth appointments. Beyond these improvements Ohio regulators should also consider authorizing delivery from medical cannabis storefronts to patients to ease patient travel burdens and reduce the risk of patient social engagement in retail settings.
As Buckeye State lawmakers return for the 2021 legislative session, ASA also recommends expanding the list of qualifying conditions to include chronic pain and anxiety, as well as authorizing patients to cultivate medical cannabis at home. These recommendations will ensure that a larger population of eligible patients who would benefit from a safe access program organized by the state can participate, and provide ambulatory patients with a more cost-effective treatment option.
Ohio’s medical cannabis program was created in 2016 by HB 523, which allows eligible in-state patients to obtain legal protections to possess and use medical cannabis. Under the law patients who meet certain requirements are eligible for an affirmative defense for possession and use of medical cannabis. Ohio promulgated governing the licensing and oversight of cultivators, manufacturers, testing laboratories and retailers in 2017, though the program was not operational until 2019 when the first sales of medical cannabis occurred, which is the same year the state licensed its first testing lab to ensure patient safety. Under the law, Ohio patients can expect to be served by a population of 56 medical cannabis dispensaries, 19 of which were licensed and operating in 2019.
Surveyed patients report that they would like anxiety and depression added to the qualifying conditions list, the option for home cultivation to reduce costs, and more dispensaries in the state to expand access. They are frustrated that the cost of medical cannabis is so high that they are traveling out of state to Michigan to purchase their medicine. Some surveyed patients report that they are pleased with the selection of products available to them, however, other surveyed patients express concerns with consistent product availability and quality. They would also like to see that telehealth, pre-ordering, and curbside pickup services be maintained in the future.