COLUMBUS — Ohio officials said Thursday they are examining the distance of medical marijuana dispensaries from patients’ homes to determine whether more retailers are needed.
Forty-three percent of Ohio patients in a recent state survey said that they travel 10 to 30 miles to shop at a dispensary. Another 38.25% are traveling only up to 10 miles.
“So we have about 20% of our population that is traveling more than 30 miles to reach a dispensary,” said Sharon Maerten-Moore, an attorney for the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which regulates dispensaries in the medical marijuana program. “Because the survey was anonymous, we don’t know exactly where those patients live or what their reasons are.”
Maerten-Moore said that there is a possibility that patients are traveling long distances because dispensaries are far away from home, or the dispensaries they patronize are close to their workplaces. The patients could also favor products at a certain dispensary that is far from home, she said.
Board of Pharmacy officials have pulled information from the state’s prescription drug database, which includes medical marijuana purchases, to begin to compare locations of dispensaries to people’s addresses.
“So we did see there’s definitely a subset of the patient population that goes to multiple dispensaries, and that they drive farther than their closest dispensary to make purchases,” she said.
The state controls the number of dispensaries in the medical marijuana location, and their general locations.
After the Ohio General Assembly legalized medical marijuana, the pharmacy board divided Ohio into regions and allocated a number of dispensaries to each. The state’s six largest counties were allowed three to five dispensaries. The remaining counties were grouped into districts, and several districts with three to four counties were only allowed to have one dispensary.
As state officials continue to analyze the locations of dispensaries, they received comments from patients who participated in the survey who said they would like to see a dispensary in their county. Maerten-Moore said that may not be practical in small-population counties where the number of medical marijuana patients is even smaller.
Ohio has 52 medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating and an additional five that are gearing up toward operations.
Maerten-Moore said she doesn’t know when the decision on whether to add dispensaries will be made. She hopes in it’s in a few months, she said.