Patient advocates call for equal access to medical marijuana dispensaries

Posted at 6:51 AM, Jul 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-14 10:19:41-04

With just 60 proposed medical marijuana dispensaries for Ohio’s 88 counties, prospective patients worry that not all Ohioans will have equal access to the medicine they need.

Patient rights advocacy groups like the Ohio Rights Group and the Ohio Patient Network fear that the current proposal will leave some patients traveling long distances outside of the counties they live in.

“Having access to this medicine is a life and death situation,” said Ohio Rights Group President Emeritus John Pardee. “This is not about getting high.”

The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program has until September to submit the final rules.

Paraplegic patients like Richmond Heights veteran Ron Hudson said they worry about traveling long distances.

“To think that a patient that doesn’t have very great mobility has to go over a couple of counties maybe over an hour drive or more,” Hudson said. “I need something fairly close.”

The concerns were amplified by recent issues in Nevada where the first two weeks of recreational sales have nearly depleted supplies at some dispensaries.

While the set up in Nevada is much different than Ohio, patients hope that Buckeye State will learn from the precedents set by other states.

According to the pro-marijuana group Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, there are 188,000 patients with qualifying conditions. Those patients would lead to a more than 3,000 patients per dispensary.

RELATED: Local man caught in the middle of Ohio's new murky medical marijuana law

States with legal medical marijuana like Pennsylvania, Oregon, Massachusetts and Colorado have ratios between 200 to 800 patients per dispensary, according to OMM. 

Pardee said he realizes that the program will need to grow from where it begins and said his group plans to help patients gain equal access across the state.

“We can all start working towards a solution that's going to honor the patients and make sure that their needs are being met,” Pardee said.

September 2018 is the target deadline for making medical marijuana available to patients in Ohio.