Today is the day.
Today the state of Ohio starts medical marijuana sales at four dispensaries: CY+ and Ohio Valley Natural Relief in Wintersville at the eastern edge of the state, The Botanist in Canton and The Forest Sandusky in Sandusky.
The Enquirer and USA Today Network will post updates throughout the day about the program’s first day in operation.
Dispensary owners prepared for large crowds on what is essentially the program’s opening day. They set up heated tents for waiting customers and planned to serve coffee and hot chocolate.
Prices are expected to be high and three of the dispensaries plan to set limits on how much dried marijuana flower – the only product available at first – could be bought to ensure there is enough to go around.
ThForest Sandusky, medical marijuana dispensary at 1651 Tiffin Ave in Sandusky, is one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in Ohio to open. The Forest Sandusky is the sister company of Standard Wellness, LLC, the Level 1 state-licensed medical marijuana cultivator and processor located in Gibsonburg, Ohio.(Photo: Molly Corfman/The News-Messenger)
Ohio Valley Natural Relief decided not to set a limit below the 8 ounces of plant material patients state rules restrict them to in a 90-day period.
“We know a lot of people have been waiting for it and will be driving a long way,” owner Mike Petrella said. “We don’t want somebody driving, who gets there early in the morning, to not buy what they need. It’s first come, first served.”
Today is a huge milestone for a program that was created with a law passed in June 2016 and was supposed to be fully functioning more than four months ago.
But there is still a long way to go.
If program roll-outs in other states are any indication, there will be more hiccups, delays and shortages as the new, highly-regulated industry takes shape. Initial supply will be low and sell out quickly. Prices will be steep, even compared to other regulated markets. There could be problems with newly in-place software used to track every plant from seed to sale.
The state’s patient registry opened just five weeks ago, and about 4,000 patients have completed the registration process. Ohio law allows patients with one of 21 medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a physician. Ohio has 374 doctors that have been approved to recommend marijuana and start the patient registration process, and many of them aren’t yet participating.
Opening day won’t be reality for much of the state until more dispensaries open this spring.
Dispensaries shelves will initially be stocked with a few dozen strains from a few cultivators – 29 have been licensed to grow but only 14 are actually growing plants. None of the state’s licensed processors has passed a final inspection, so the only product available at first will be dried flower, or bud. Flower will be packaged in 2.83 gram amounts, per state regulations. Prices will range from $40 to $60 for each “Ohio tenth” of an ounce.
In the coming months, as processors come online, patients will be able to buy marijuana-infused oils, lotions, patches, tinctures and edibles.
“Countless Ohioans could benefit from medical cannabis, but only a limited number will gain access to it this week,” said Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for national advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project.
Lindsey said the delays experienced in Ohio – from detailed application requirements to new state-specific regulations – offer a lesson for other states considering enacting medical marijuana laws. Thirty-two other states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medicinal use.
“States that create a high regulatory hurdle need to be ready for the additional burdens it places on state agencies and applicants as programs get off the ground,” Lindsey said. “Otherwise, a lot of the patients these laws were created to help won’t experience the benefits until several years after they are enacted.”