This corner of the state could get its first medical marijuana dispensary within a month — maybe sooner — if all goes well with the permitting process, according to a company working on dispensaries in both Dayton and Springfield.
“We have been working as fast and as hard as we can. People are really wanting their medicine,” said Larry Pegram, president of Pure Ohio Wellness LLC.
Cannabis should go on sale next month at the company’s Springfield location, 1711 West Main St., he said.
“A lot of it depends on inspections,” Pegram said. “I think we’re within three weeks … but realistically, closer to four weeks.”
Of the dozen medical marijuana dispensaries now open in Ohio, nine are more than three-hour drives from Dayton. The closest is in Columbus, still more than an hour’s drive.
“If you live somewhere in southwest Ohio, you’ve got a long way to go,” Pegram said.
The company is also converting a former hookah bar at 1875 Needmore Road in Dayton into a dispensary. It’s expected to open in May, he said. Pure Ohio Wellness also has its own grow facility in Mad River Twp. in Clark County.
Another company is in the process of converting an old Oregon Historic District garage at 333 Wayne Ave. into another Dayton dispensary. An official for CannAscend Ohio LLC, owner of the Strawberry Fields-branded dispensary, did not return phone calls for this story.
Nine dispensaries have provisional licenses to open in the Dayton region, including another in Springfield and others in Beavercreek, Lebanon, Monroe, Riverside and the village of Seven Mile.
The 2016 law authorized 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 are allowed to possess up to a 90-day supply. Smoking or home growing it is barred.
Despite the lack of open dispensaries, patients are still visiting area physicians to get recommended for medical marijuana, said Dr. Anand Dugar, who opened a Green Health Docs clinic on Fifth Street in Dayton around the corner from the Strawberry Fields dispensary.
“They still want to get certified and be ready,” Dugar said. “When dispensaries do open, there’s not going to be a huge wait.”
Green Health Docs currently see 15-20 patients each Tuesday, currently the only day it’s open. But as more people become aware of the program and more dispensaries are open, the company will add additional days, he said.
“The main driver of the program is obviously when the dispensaries open in local areas because that makes it easy for (patients) to access the product,” Dugar said.
Patients seeking a recommendation pay $200 for an initial visit to Green Health Docs. Veterans pay $170. Annual renewals afterward are $150, said Dugar, who founded the Maryland-based company.
By the end of February, more than 22,000 Ohioans had received a doctor’s recommendation to use medical cannabis while 19,395 had registered with the state. But only 5,465 unique patients with marijuana cards, or 28 percent, had purchased medical marijuana since the first dispensary opened January 16, already a four-month delay from when dispensaries were supposed to be operational.
“We are really behind on the number of patients who have actually purchased medical marijuana,” said Thomas Rosenberger, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio.
When more of the state-allowed 56 medical marijuana stores come online, more Ohioans will have access to the medicine, he said.
“As these dispensaries continue to open … you’re going to see the number of patients who are actively purchasing medical marijuana start climbing pretty steadily to a point of it matching the number of patients with a card,” Rosenberger said.
So far, only plant material has been available to patients. But a greater variety of products such as edibles, oils and tinctures should become more available in coming months. The Department of Commerce issued the first processor certificate of operation to Grow Ohio, LLC in Muskingum County. Processors this month.
At of the beginning of last week, total sales of medical marijuana reached $2,173,990 for 288 pounds, or about $472 an ounce.
A clearer picture of why Ohioans are signing up to buy medical marijuana was revealed by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy in February: at the time, about 64 percent of the recommendations were to alleviate pain.
The same data through January showed that 10,910 Ohioans cited chronic and severe or intractable pain as a condition to use medical marijuana. Post-traumatic stress disorder was the second-highest condition (2,622), followed by fibromyalgia (1,973) and cancer (1,082).
Some Ohio patients are registered with multiple conditions, also including spinal cord disease or injury (998), epilepsy or another seizure disorder, Crohn’s disease (445) and multiple sclerosis (387).
The State Medical Board of Ohio is now determining whether six other conditions — autism spectrum disorder, chronic anxiety disorder, general anxiety disorder, depression, insomnia and opioid use disorder — should be added. After a review by an expert committee, the full medical board will deny or adopt the conditions by June 30.