The first medical marijuana dispensary that?€™s less than an hour?€™s drive from most southwest Ohio patients opened this morning in Lebanon.

Area’s first medical pot dispensary opens, more shops coming soon

Like other southwest Ohio residents, Sherry Patterson said she’s already benefited from medical marijuana — but had to drive to Cleveland or Columbus.

Until Tuesday.

About Wellness Ohio, the first medical marijuana dispensary less than an hour’s drive from most area patients, opened in Lebanon. And another dispensary may open its doors in Springfield early next month.

“It’s changed my life,” said Patterson, who lives in Morrow. “I’m able to sleep. I’m off of nine medications.”

MORE: Chronic pain cited as top reason from Ohioans buying medical marijuana

Patterson and about 30 others waited in line early at the dispensary, the 17th to open of 56 planned for Ohio, all of which were first approved to open last September.

Slowed by lawsuits, construction delays and other problems, the state’s first few dispensaries didn’t open until mid-January, most in the northeast corner of Ohio three or more hours away from Dayton, Hamilton, Middletown and Springfield.

State records show that fewer than half of the more than 31,000 patients registered as of Thursday have yet to purchase medical marijuana.

Patterson said she has two conditions treatable with medical marijuana, but its effect means she’s down to only one prescription — that for diabetes.

“I’m off every psychotropic medication I was on. No more depression meds. No more anxiety meds. No more seizure meds,” she said. “Completely off of them.”

Melissa West, a patient from West Chester, said the Lebanon dispensary staff walked her through the whole process in 15-20 minutes, including talking to her about different strains of medical cannabis and their effects depending when during the day they are used.

“They were very helpful,” West said. “They answered every question I had.”

MORE: Conservative Lebanon split on medical marijuana

West spent $78 on blue raspberry edibles called Butterfly Effect. She also purchased tincture, an extract of cannabis that can be used orally as drops alone or put into recipes.

Smoking is forbidden by the law passed in 2016, but medical cannabis can be vaped and used in edibles and oils by patients for 21 currently approved conditions with possibly more on the way.

RELATED: Here are all 21 health conditions that could qualify you for medical marijuana in Ohio

Five other area dispensaries are expected to open soon, including two in Dayton, two in Springfield and one in Monroe. Three other locations in Beavercreek, Riverside and the Village of Seven Mile have also received preliminary approval by the state to house dispensaries.

A Springfield dispensary at 1711 W. Main St. could receive its final inspection within the next two weeks, said Larry Pegram, the president of Pure Ohio Wellness LLC. The company is also opening a Dayton dispensary at 1875 Needmore Road, but it could be up to two months before it’s finished, he said.

“The one in Dayton is definitely behind the one in Springfield. There’s a lot more construction we had to do in Dayton on that building,” Pegram said Tuesday. “The biggest issue we’ve had through this whole process is contractors are just so swamped right now.”

Pegram said meeting all the state regulations is a “tedious” process, and the company wants to have everything in line. Pure Ohio Wellness also has a grow operation up and running in nearby Mad River Twp. in Clark County and selling to dispensaries — just not yet supplying its own.

“We are making sure we have everything perfect before we ask for our final inspection,” he said. “The way we’ve been told by the other groups, don’t ask for that until you’re ready or otherwise they will put you off even longer if you fail it.”

Another Springfield dispensary, Terrasana, operated by Cannamed Therapeutics LLC is going in at 183 Raydo Circle. CannAscend Alternative LLC, is working on two area dispensaries, constructing a new building at 300 N. Main St. in Monroe, and rehabbing a former garage at 333 Wayne Ave. in Dayton with the name Strawberry Fields already on the building. A CannAscend company official did not return a phone call Tuesday in time for this story.

As of Thursday, 31,075 patients with recommendations were registered with the state but not quite half, 15,339 had made a purchase. Those who had spent $6.5 million on 820 pounds of plant material and 4,614 units of manufactured product through 46,227 sales as of May 12, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce.

MORE: Central State medical pot lab will require more police, armored truck

Patterson said the acceptance of medical marijuana in Ohio has allowed her and other patients use the medicine without worry of arrest.

“You don’t want to do anything illegal, you don’t want to do anything wrong, but you don’t want to be sick, either,” Patterson said. “ I’m just glad that finally somebody’s able to see that there are healing qualities. People are actually being healed of conditions that they’ve had to live with their entire life.”

Photographer Nick Graham contributed to this story.

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