WAPAKONETA — A Wapakoneta physician is the first in this area to see patients interested in the state’s medical marijuana program.
“I feel like there’s a calling,” said Dr. Rajbir Bajwa, a long-time pediatrician who now runs Medical Cannabis of Northwest Ohio. “It’s like something reaches out to you … I’ve never felt there was a significant harm to medical marijuana. I do see harms in other drugs, though. I do see harms in alcohol. I do see harms in opiates.”
Bajwa started seeing patients in Wapakoneta’s Grand View Plaza on Jan. 3. Fibromyalgia, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder are the most common conditions he’s seen thus far, but Bajwa expects more patients seeking relief from chemotherapy.
Patients are required to bring documentation from their doctor or specialist verifying that they meet one of the state’s 21 qualifying conditions.
But physicians like Bajwa cannot prescribe the drug, which is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Instead, patients who are deemed eligible are entered in the state’s patient and caregiver registry and must then purchase a medical marijuana card for a $50 annual fee.
“I am not in the position with one visit to diagnose them,” Bajwa said. “They have to come with their qualifying condition from their primary care doctor or specialist. They have to be vetted. If I have those records, then I can discuss their condition with the patient with their records in front of them and can validate whether or not they truly meet a qualifying condition.”
Chronic pain is the most subjective and therefore the hardest to diagnose, but according to Bajwa, chronic pain patients may have the most to gain from medical marijuana. He said physicians should also screen for misuse, dependency and withdrawal symptoms in follow-up sessions.
“It’s just due diligence on the physician’s part to follow-up with their patient,” he said. “But the doctors that will just give you a recommendation and then see you whenever are not helping the patients.”
At least two more state-certified physicians are expected to start seeing patients in Lima soon.
My Marijuana Card, which has offices in Michigan and Ohio, plans to open a location at 2818 Elida Road in Lima on Feb. 7. Founder Molefi Branson hopes the office will be open three to four days a week, depending on patient volume.
No dispensaries open in region — yet
There are only four dispensaries open thus far, the closest being in Sandusky.
The state has issued a provisional license for Eagle Dispensaries in Wapakoneta, although it is unclear when that facility will open. Six other dispensaries in northwest Ohio have received provisional licenses as well, including those in Maumee, Toledo, Bowling Green, Marion, Fremont and Huron.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.