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Ohio Board of Pharmacy announces next application period for medical marijuana dispensaries

Medical marijuana 101: What's legal, what's not
Posted at 2:50 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 18:26:15-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which oversees Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, is getting ready to expand the number of dispensaries in Ohio.

Ohio Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Steven Schierholt told the Board he’s recommending they begin a Request for Application process that would add 73 new Medical Marijuana dispensaries to the existing 57 that are approved in Ohio. That would cap the state’s dispensaries at 130.

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Customers stand outside The Forest Sandusky in January 2019 for the first day of medical marijuana sales in Ohio.

The new allocation method would attempt to make sure there would be about 1,200 registered patients per dispensary in each dispensary district of the state. There would be more dispensaries per capital in Ohio than there would be in neighboring Pennsylvania.

The goal is to finalize rule changes in the next few months so that the application process can start over the summer.

Dispensaries right now

Right now, Ohio has 57 provisional licenses, meaning those locations have been approved to run dispensaries. Fifty-two of the 57 provisional licenses have Certificates of Operation, allowing them to open for business and sell medical marijuana to Ohio patients.

Since the program launched, critics complained that 57 dispensaries were not enough for the full state of Ohio. By comparison, Pennsylvania has a similar population to Ohio but has already opened roughly double the number of dispensaries and will allow up to 150 dispensaries.

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The Forest Sandusky check out counter shows what customers experience during the media tour before it opened.

Frantz Ward Partner Tom Haren represents companies working in Ohio’s Medical Marijuana program.

“There’s a reason that we had a perception that we didn’t have enough access and that [medical marijuana] is too expensive and it’s because it’s true,” said Haren.

Surveys of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana patients show that roughly 17% of patients have a dispensary within 10 miles of their home, 66% have a dispensary between 10 and 30 miles, and the remaining patients say they have to travel more than 30 miles to get to a dispensary.

Haren said more dispensaries will cut down on travel time for patients who depend on Medical Marijuana to treat one of the state’s more than 20 qualifying conditions.

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Customers waited in the cold before Ohio's first medical marijuana sales to make sure dispensaries didn't sell out.

Laura DeAngelis is a Medical Marijuana Patient in Ohio with fibromyalgia.

“I used to spend a lot of time in bed,” said DeAngelis. “I would be bedridden and not able to move. Stiff joints, stiff muscles.”

For the last two years, she’s used edibles and vape pens to treat those conditions better than more traditional treatments she tried before.

“I feel more like a human being instead of this lump that lays on the bed all day,” said DeAngelis.

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DeAngelis says she has to buy medical marijuana in bulk because the closest dispensary is still 30-40 minutes away and she doesn't have an easy way to get there.

But, she doesn’t drive alone, lives in Ashtabula and said the closest Medical Marijuana Dispensary is in Painesville—about 30-40 minutes away.

“I would love to have [dispensaries] a lot closer to home,” said DeAngelis. “Sometimes I have to switch brands, sometimes they don’t have the stuff that I usually use in stock.”

The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program was created by House Bill 523 in 2016 and the first medical marijuana sales happened in January 2019. On the first day of medical marijuana sales, only four dispensaries were approved to sell to patients.

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