No one should be surprised that there’s a scramble on to get all the pieces in place for the startup of Ohio’s medical marijuana program this fall.
This is complicated stuff, after all, with new rules and the bureaucracy that comes with oversight of a substance that remains illegal unless one has a prescription.
Lawmakers passed the pot law in September 2016, establishing the basic framework for the program, but leaving the primary tasks of establishing guidelines for the cultivation, processing, testing, dispensing and medical use of marijuana to the Ohio Department of Commerce, the State Board of Pharmacy and the State Medical Board.
The law calls for the program to be fully operational by Sept. 8. That’s now less than 100 days away.
Needless to say, there have already been a few glitches.
The main problems have come from businesses and individuals who want to operate the farms where the pot will be grown and the dispensaries where it will be distributed.
The first 24 cultivator licenses were awarded in November, but some who applied and were denied have claimed the Department of Commerce did not verify whether medical marijuana growers met the mandatory qualifications before announcing license winners.
Some have taken their complaints to court, but recently a judge ruled the legal actions shouldn’t delay the implementation of the program.
Last week, the Ohio pharmacy board canceled a meeting to announce the locations of the dispensaries where medical marijuana will be sold to those with prescriptions. That announcement is now expected to be made on Monday, but 31 counties, including Hancock, are not expected to have a dispensary, at least initially.
The program will allow patients with one of 21 qualifying medical conditions and a doctor’s recommendation to buy and use marijuana. The law allows dispensaries to sell plant material for vaping, oils, lotions, tinctures and patches, but “patients” can’t grow or smoke the plant.
Doctors will need a special certification before they can prescribe pot.
Startup issues aren’t unique to Ohio. States with medical and recreational marijuana have had to learn as they go as different problems arise.
While Ohio’s program is different in ways from others, the state hasn’t exactly had to reinvent the wheel. Forty-five other states offer medical pot, and nine have legalized it on the recreational level.
The bumps in the road are not expected to end Sept. 8 for Ohio regulators with medical pot, and could grow even more in the future.
Recreational marijuana laws have generally followed in states that first open the door to medical pot. Ohio Families for Change has already proposed a constitutional amendment that would grant those 21 and older a constitutional right to possess, produce, transport, use and share cannabis.
If the group is able to collect enough signatures, the proposal could reach the statewide ballot as soon as next year.