Medical marijuana was supposed to be in Ohio patients’ hands by Sept. 8, but officials say there’s no way that deadline will be met.
Despite delays, regulators working through the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program continue to chip away at selecting and certifying the hundreds of entities involved in state’s medical marijuana business.
Dispensary locations were announced last month – including a dozen in the region. Last week, the first of 25 cultivators received an operations certificate and can begin planting seeds.
Also last week, Central State University received a provisional license to test the plants that grow from the new industry.
The program has caused confusion. Here are your questions answered about the Ohio program, what’s taken place so far and the next steps to bring medical marijuana to patients:
How did Ohio arrive with medical marijuana?
Polling in 2015 showed up to 90 percent of Ohioans were willing to support legalizing medical use of marijuana. But a measure put before voters that November also included provisions for home growing and recreational use of pot, factors that led to a nearly 2-1 defeat at the ballot box.
The multi-million-dollar ResponsibleOhio campaign may have failed, but the issue convinced state lawmakers that they’d rather adopt a highly regulated medical marijuana program — and write the rules — rather than risk it going to the ballot again.
A medical marijuana law, House Bill 523, passed in 2016 and was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich.
The law authorized medical marijuana use by patients with 21 conditions, including cancer or chronic pain, in the form of edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing. Patients and their caregivers will be allowed to possess up to a 90-day supply. Smoking or home growing it is barred.
What is medical marijuana if it’s not smoked?
Some say medical marijuana is a misnomer, including some local officials and the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
“People keep saying ‘medical marijuana’ and there’s no such thing,” said Helen Jones-Kelley, executive director, Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services board of Montgomery County. “It isn’t like you can just go into a place and find a strain of marijuana that is medicinal.”
Nevertheless, a new industry is sanctioned to provide some Ohioans with marijuana.
Proponents say pot offers patients relief from pain, inflammation and nausea.
As marijuana becomes available later this year, there’s still widespread public confusion about what kind of products Ohioans with a doctor’s recommendation will be allowed to purchase in dispensaries.
“I think a lot of the confusion comes because plant material will be sold. But you’re not allowed to take that plant material and use it by combustion,” said Thomas Rosenberger, executive director, National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio.
Like many other plants, oil can be extracted from marijuana and processed into concentrated forms that can be used in recipes or in skin lotions and creams.
Plant material can be baked in or mixed into a foodstuffs including brownies, cookies, ice cream, lollipops and crackers.
As with other transdermal patches, the active compounds of marijuana reach the bloodstream through the skin.
Unprocessed cannabis can be purchased and used legally so long as the patient doesn’t light it up. In any form, patients are limited to a 90-day supply of medical marijuana.
These alcoholic extracts of cannabis are usually taken by dropper under the tongue or mixed into drinks.
While the law prohibits the use of medical marijuana through combustion, it does allow for vaping, which releases the psychoactive molecules of marijuana through heating in a vaporizer.
What can be treated with medical marijuana?
By Ohio law, medical marijuana can be used to treat 21 qualifying conditions:
• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
• Crohn’s disease
• Epilepsy or another seizure disorder
• Hepatitis C
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Multiple sclerosis
• Pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable
• Parkinson’s disease
• Positive status for HIV
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Sickle cell anemia
• Spinal cord disease or injury
• Tourette’s syndrome
• Traumatic brain injury
• Ulcerative colitis
After Nov. 1, the State Medical Board will start accepting petitions to potentially add additional qualifying conditions.
Do I need to register as a patient or caregiver?
Yes. But not yet.
All medical marijuana patients and their caregivers will be required to register with the State Board of Pharmacy but no patient identification cards are being issued yet by the state of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program.
The only valid state ID cards will be issued by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy once the state’s patient registry becomes available.
A patient or caregiver registration will be valid from the date of issuance and expire one year later, on the last day of the month it was issued. If the patient is diagnosed as terminally ill, the patient’s registration expires after six months.
Once registered, the law prohibits the Board of Pharmacy, as well as licensed dispensaries, from making personal identifying information public. Physicians and those employed by dispensaries will be able to verify a patient or caregiver’s registration.
If I have one of the conditions, can my family physician write me a prescription for marijuana?
Technically, no. Doctors can’t “prescribe” medical marijuana because marijuana remains classified federally as a Schedule 1 drug not recognized to have a medical benefit. But they may be able to write you a “recommendation,” provided they have the proper certification.
To be certified, a physician must hold an unrestricted MD or DO license and complete at least two hours of continuing medical education to assist in diagnosing qualifying conditions, according to the state medical board.
The State Medical Board of Ohio has now cleared 139 physicians to recommend treatment with marijuana, including doctors in Beavercreek Twp., Centerville, Dayton, Enon, Mason, Middletown, Springboro, Springfield, Washington Twp., West Chester Twp. and Yellow Springs.
So you will have to learn if your doctor is certified.
When will medical marijuana be available for purchase?
That remains a moving target. Though the Sept. 8 deadline won’t be met, officials say the product is still expected on shelves by the end of the year.
Growers, who received provisional licenses in November, have been delayed by weather and construction issues, officials said. Fourteen of the 25 cultivators with provisional licenses have scheduled inspections, including seven this month.
Where will it be sold?
The Dayton-Springfield-Cincinnati region will get 12 medical marijuana stores, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy ruled on Monday. Locally, the stores will open in Montgomery, Greene, Butler, Warren, Clark and Hamilton counties. The Board of Pharmacy announced the winners of up to 56 dispensary licenses out of 376 applications statewide.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy licensed 56 locations that can sell medical marijuana once it becomes legal this year. A total of 376 applications were received.
The licenses are distributed across 28 geographic districts. Three districts, including one that covers Miami County, did not have viable or any applications.
Pure Ohio Wellness LLC, 1875 Needmore Rd., Dayton;
CannAscend Alternative, 333 Wayne Ave., Dayton;
Schottenstein Aphria III LLC, 5604 Airway Rd., Riverside.
Harvest of Ohio LLC., 4370 Tonawanda Trail, Beavercreek.
127 Ohio LLC in the Village of Seven Mile in Butler County;
CannAscend Alternative LLC, 300 No. Main St., Monroe.
Therapeutic Healing Care, LLC, 1525 Genntown Drive, Suite B, Lebanon.
Pure Ohio Wellness LLC, 1711 West Main St., Springfield;
Cannamed Therapeutics LLC, 0 Raydo Circle, Springfield.
Care Med Associates, 5149 Kennedy Ave., Cincinnati;
Green Rx Inc., 8420 Vine St., Cincinnati;
PharmaCann Ohio, 5445 Ridge Rd. in Columbia.
Where will it be grown?
One of the Dayton area’s largest medical marijuana cultivators, Cresco Labs, sits next to Antioch University Midwest at 904 Dayton Street in Yellow Springs.
The facility features a 23,294-square-foot, state-of-the-art steel greenhouse and a separate 26,445-square-foot processing area also pending approval by the state.
Another of the large growers is Pure Ohio Wellness, LLC at 4020 Dayton-Springfield Road in Mad River Twp. outside Springfield.
The state picked 12 large-scale growers from 109 applicants. The Level I licenses allow for cultivation up to 25,000 square feet.
Of 76 applicants, the state awarded 12 Level II licenses, allowing cultivation of up to 3,000 square feet.
Area sites for the smaller grow operations include: Ancient Roots, U.S. 68, Wilmington; Hemma LLC, 100 Edison Drive, Monroe; Ohio Clean Leaf LLC, 2046 Valley St., Dayton; and Paragon Development Group, LLC, 6212 Executive Blvd., Huber Heights.
» RELATED: Springfield, Yellow Springs to get large marijuana growing operations
What happens after it’s harvested?
Processors take raw material from cultivators and turn it into the oils, edibles and other items to be sold at dispensaries.
In December, the Ohio Department of Commerce received 104 applications for up to 40 processor licenses. The list of applicants included 19 of 24 companies that were awarded cultivator licenses earlier this year.
Medical marijuana and medical marijuana products will be tested at labs. The state has no limit on the number of testing labs. The lab received seven privately-held lab applications and two from universities, including Central State University, which was awarded a provisional license last week.