LIMA — Ohio’s medical marijuana business has been off to a slow start, despite widespread interest and $2.88 million in sales reported in the three months since the first dispensaries opened in January.
Only 13 of the 56 dispensaries with provisional licenses have received certificates of operation from the state. And only two of the 39 processors with provisional licenses have received certificates of operation, which has caused a delay in getting products to dispensary shelves.
“We are starting from nothing,” said Ynez Henningsen, a project manager for Sandusky dispensary The Forest and Standard Wellness, a certified medical cannabis grower and processor.
Henningsen said there are two products for sale at The Forest: Dried flower, or plant matter that can be smoked through a vaping pen, and an oil-based tincture containing THC and CBD. But she expects more products like oils, lozenges, capsules and edibles will eventually hit dispensary shelves once processors start producing these products.
One of those processing labs, Innovative Healing Solutions, has received a provisional license for its planned Spencerville location.
Plant manager Frank Caprilla expects IHS will be operational by the fall, with product moving to dispensary shelves by Christmas under his currently outlook.
“We take the raw cannabis, raw flower, what normal people would understand as marijuana, and we take that and we extract the oils out of it,” Caprilla explained. “The oil is where the medicine is.”
IHS plans to produce a full line of products, including vape pens, edibles, topical lotions and tinctures, that will be sold across the state, according to Caprilla.
Still no dispensary in Wapak
Eagle Dispensaries received a provisional license for a dispensary in Wapakoneta, but it has not yet received a certificate for operation and The Lima News has been unable to verify when owners expect that location to be ready for final inspection.
“We are dying for their business to start because our business is slow until (it opens),” said Dr. Rajbir Bajwa, who is certified to recommend patients for Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program.
Bajwa opened his own clinic, Medical Cannabis of Northwest Ohio, in Wapakoneta in January. Since that time, Bajwa said he’s seen numerous patients with severe chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia and cancer. But Bajwa said patients are frustrated with the distance between themselves and the few dispensaries open and elderly patients, in particular, are uninterested in the products currently available in Ohio.
The dispensaries have sold $2.88 million, or 382 pounds of medical marijuana between Jan. 16 and March 31, according to Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program. The Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System reports 9,855 of the 24,500 registered patients have purchased medical cannabis as of March 31.
My Marijuana Cards, which is also working with patients seeking a medical marijuana card, has reportedly seen between 700-800 patients at its Elida Road office since February, according to founder Moe Branson.
Branson said the lack of a nearby dispensary has been a “big deterrent” for patients in the Lima area.
“Patients are always calling every single day, asking us ‘When does Wapakoneta (dispensary) open up? Where is the closest dispensary?’” Branson said.
He said 90% of patients at his clinic have reported chronic pain. Patients need to bring medical documentation which shows their qualifying condition, Branson said. But he said the process is not “cumbersome.”
“As long as they supply evidence that they have a qualifying condition with some documentation, that’s all we need,” he said. State-certified physicians, known as certified to recommend or CTR physicians, do not prescribe marijuana. Rather, physicians evaluate whether a patient meets at least one of Ohio’s 21 qualifying conditions. Patients are then eligible for the state’s patient registry, which allows them to shop at Ohio dispensaries.
Interest in Ohio’s medical marijuana program appears strong. Representatives with One River Collective and Innovative Healing Solutions held a holistic health and cannabis expo in Lima Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Civic Center. Dozens of medical marijuana affiliated businesses talked with people curious about medical marijuana throughout the expo, which will continue from noon to 6 p.m. today.