CINCINNATI — While medical marijuana has been legal in Ohio for nearly six years, many patients say the program has had major issues since it began in 2016. Now, lawmakers are hoping to solve some of the underlying issues.
Anthony Riley has used medical marijuana to help with pain and inflammation caused by a traumatic brain injury since the program started in 2016. Riley said the marijuana helps his pain immensely. The program, though, has been much more difficult.
"Definitely was a disappointing experience,” Riley said. “There wasn't a lot available, and the prices were just unbelievable."
Those behind Senate Bill 261 said nearly half of the total patients have dropped out of the program.
"What I’ve already seen is several thousands of patients leave the program,” Riley said. “They are really fed up with the price. They're fed up with the quality of products. They're fed up with the lack of interaction with the state as far as explaining things to them."
The bill would make it easier for patients to get into the program. Jimmy Gould helped draft the 2016 law.
The real goal is to make it a more patient-centric legislation,” Gould said. “It's really making the industry function better."
Right now, it's significantly cheaper and much easier for people to buy marijuana illegally.
"We're up against some really serious money,” Gould said. “The illicit market in Ohio alone is $1.18 billion.”
Supply is also a concern. This month, 70 new dispensaries were cleared to open. If the supply issue isn't resolved, prices will only get higher.
“It's very frustrating if you're in this program in any meaningful way,” Riley said. “How do we move forward if we don't at least get some type of adjustments and amendments to this bill that's sitting here basically, on life support right now because we haven't been able to get things done in a timely manner?”
Because of the process to make changes, even if the law passed in the house today, current patients would not see any meaningful improvements for at least another two and a half years