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Ohio missing target date for selling medical marijuana

Posted at 4:48 PM, Sep 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-05 18:27:16-04

CINCINNATI - Heather Benton moved her family to Colorado to legally get the THCa patches she believed were helping reduce her daughter Addyson's 100-times-a-day seizures.

They came back after Ohio's medical marijuana program was announced more than two years ago. But they’re still waiting.

"I think a lot of the parents of patients have realized this isn't going to be an easy process and we need to sit back and wait for this all to kind of unfold, but at the same time we are getting very antsy," Benton told WCPO Wednesday.

“At this point there should be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel for parents and patients in Ohio and unfortunately there isn't.”

Ohio's long-awaited medical marijuana program was supposed to be up and running at the end of this week. The date of Sept. 8 is written into the state law.

But the earliest estimate for that happening is now December or January.

Only four cultivators are cleared to grow - four of 25. The one that may be farthest along is Buckeye Relief near Cleveland. They told WCPO Wednesday they should be harvesting in November or December. Their goal is to have products on the shelves after the first of the year.

"Somebody needs to be held accountable for the delay in this," Benton said.

In June 2016, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill into law that authorizes medical marijuana use by patients with 21 conditions, including cancer or chronic pain, in the form of edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing. Patients and their caregivers will be allowed to possess up to a 90-day supply. Smoking or home growing it is barred.

Regulators worked for more than a year to issue rules, review applications and announce licenses for cultivators, labs, dispensaries and processors.

Pharmacann says it expects to open its Ridge Road dispensary, one of seven designated for southwest Ohio, around the first of the year.  Earlier this summer they told WCPO delays happen in the early days of a state's program.

"And then the state will transition into this kind of more stable operation where the majority of its licensees are up and running and serving patients," said Jeremy Unruh of Pharmacann,  "and they'll be able to really dial in and refine the process that kind of go behind and help shore up this medical marijuana program."  

The cultivator licensed for Monroe, Ohio, in Butler County was scheduled for inspection last month, but CannAscend Alternative, LLC hasn't been cleared to operate yet, according to the state. 

State regulators cite construction delays and the usual holdups with new businesses.  

“We always knew the timeline was tight and aggressive,” said Mark Hamlin of the Ohio Department of Commerce, which oversees cultivator regulations.

Benton, though, is impatient. 

"How much longer can we be patient when our kids are suffering, or there's people not getting medication for their children?" she said.

"We were definitely forced out of Ohio to access this medication and now that we're back we're still not receiving it."

The Journal-News, a media partner of WCPO, contributed to this story.

LIST: Where medical marijuana will be sold in Greater Cincinnati