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Ohio’s medical marijuana program still struggling to meet patient preferences, OSU study finds

Posted at 5:36 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 17:36:12-04

CLEVELAND — Even if medical marijuana could help alleviate pain or other conditions, Ohioans tell an Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Drug Enforcement and Policy Center study that they are dissatisfied with Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP). Some respondents say they aren’t able to participate in the program while others report that they choose not to be a patient.

“The price of medical marijuana, the cost and difficulty in obtaining a physician’s recommendation and completing the registration process were the primary drivers of respondents’ dissatisfaction,” according to the study’s Summary and Key Findings section.

Ohio’s medical marijuana program made its first sales in January of 2019, when Ohio had only five dispensaries approved to open. Four were open for business on the first day.

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Patients are lining up at The Forest in Sandusky to receive the first round of medical marijuana

Of the survey’s almost 400 respondents, 86.1% report having a qualifying condition that would allow them to get a doctor’s recommendation to buy medical marijuana from a state-approved dispensary. However, only 52.8% of those respondents say they’ve pursued that recommendation.

The reasons for not participating in the Ohio medical marijuana program can vary from person to person, but in April 2019, Scott Atkinson told News 5 that he was confident he'd qualify to be a patient because of his chronic pain, but he can't even see a doctor to find out because of the price.

Just before buying any medical marijuana from a dispensary, Ohioans like Atkinson have to pay these costs:

  • $250-$300 for a doctor's visit to get a medical marijuana recommendation
  • $50 to activate a patient registry card

The study states:

…there are two main factors preventing people with qualifying conditions from using marijuana—the price of the product and fears about losing employment. 53.8% of respondents indicated that medical marijuana is currently too expensive to use, followed by 27.4% of people who were worried about losing their jobs due to continued federal prohibition on marijuana and the uncertainty surrounding individual employers’ policies regarding the use of marijuana even for legitimate medical purposes.
Ohio State University Drug Enforcement and Policy Center

Of Ohio’s 125,087 registered patients, 100,224 have visited a dispensary. That means almost 20% of people who have paid for a doctor’s visit ($250-$300) and to activate their patient registry card ($50) have not used the privileges that being a registered patient gives them.

Of the survey respondents, 84.2% said they would prefer to purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary, but “not living close to a dispensary” is one of the reasons why potential patients weren’t participating in the state program.

Sixty-five percent of Ohio’s medical marijuana patients say they drive 10 to 30 miles to reach a dispensary, but 17% say they're substantially farther away, according to OMMCP data. During the coronavirus, OMMCP temporarily made it easier for patients to purchase medical marijuana.

Other patients told those who conducted the study that they're concerned about employers finding out they use medical marijuana and losing their job. Ohio's medical marijuana program does not protect patients from being fired from their jobs because of failed drug tests.

Lagging patient participation is one of the factors that medical marijuana companies like Galenas and Grove Bags point to when they say that Ohio’s program lags behind other states.

Read the full study here.

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