After years of waiting, Ohio patients finally have access to medical marijuana as of Wednesday morning, when the first legal sales of medical marijuana are set to take place.
Back in June of 2016, Gov. John Kasich signed H.B. 523, making Ohio the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana, with the widespread assumption that the program would take a year to set up and implement. But one year came to pass, then another, and now 30 months later, Ohio patients finally have access. This is certainly later than would have been ideal for some, but nevertheless, many Ohioans in need will now get to experience the myriad benefits of legal medical marijuana.
A Delayed Victory
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, this makes Ohio the 32nd state to adopt an effective medical marijuana program, alongside Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. MPP led Ohioans for Medical Marijuana’s 2016 ballot effort that pushed lawmakers to enact a medical marijuana law.
“Patients in Ohio are finally going to begin accessing medical marijuana safely and legally in licensed dispensaries,” said Chris Lindsey, who serves as senior legislative counsel for MPP in a statement on sales commencing. “While this is historic, it is also bittersweet, as implementation of the law continues to be delayed in most parts of the state. Countless Ohioans could benefit from medical cannabis, but only a limited number will gain access to it this week.”
Lindsey applauded Ohio on creating a very functional program, but said he hoped the delays it experienced can serve as a lesson for states considering adopting medical cannabis laws this year.
“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,” said Lindsey. “Otherwise, a lot of the patients these laws were created to help won’t experience the benefits until several years after they are enacted.”
Where to Shop?
Four dispensaries around the state are open for first-day sales this morning. Two are located in Wintersville, now the headiest place in Ohio, while the third is located in Sandusky and the fourth is down the road from the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton. It’s a safe bet Day One will look similar to the way it has in other states, with limited amounts of products to select from. Best case scenario, there are no gaps in the supply chain in the weeks to come leading to droughts.
The dispensaries are only serving Ohio’s registered patients. As of last month, when the program went live, 3,575 people have signed up. That means currently, all of the patients in Ohio could fit in Ohio Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University… 29 times. Those patients will be able to purchase up to a 90-day supply of medical cannabis.
Fortunately, patients in Ohio will have plenty of protections in place from state law enforcement. These include the specification that medical marijuana registration status alone cannot be used as the basis for a DUI investigation, rules prohibiting discrimination against medical marijuana patients seeking either organ transplants or housing, and the stipulation that prospective employers cannot refuse to hire someone one due to their registry status. But on the flip side, if you don’t have a card, none of those benefits apply to you.
Patients are able to purchase flowers and oils for vaporizing, but smoking is not permitted under the law. But on the plus side, total sales taxes will be capped at a maximum of 8 percent at the register — hear that, California?
TELL US, does your state allow medical cannabis sales?