Cannabis Supporters Brace For Lackadaisical Launch Of Marijuana In Ohio

Photo Credit: WLWT5

Kim Rupp is anxiously awaiting the day she can buy and consume medical marijuana in Ohio.

“You’re hoping that when this opens that it will change your life,” Rupp said, referring to dispensaries where legal cannabis will be sold in the Buckeye State.

Rupp said she’s battled a debilitating bone disease for years, consuming countless pharmaceutical drugs along the way.

A big proponent of medical marijuana, Rupp is pessimistic that Ohio’s new pot program will be fully up and running by Sept. 8th, as required by law.

“We would be fortunate if we see anything happening by spring,” Rupp said. “I mean, anything where people have access.”

Instead, Rupp thinks only a few dispensaries will be open by fall.

Ohio’s Board of Pharmacy delayed Wednesday’s scheduled announcement of who will get to operate the stores. That means nobody’s started building what have to be fortified sites, because buying cannabis is typically an all-cash transaction.

“I don’t think you’ll see everybody open on the same day,” said Greg May.

May is with Ohio Releaf III, a company that hopes to build a dispensary in Forest Park.

Missing only a few stores will likely have a major impact. The pharmacy board can award up to 60 dispensary licenses statewide, with just three dispensaries for all of Hamilton County.

“My advice is get your recommendation now or as soon as possible,” said Rob Ryan, executive director of the Ohio Patient Network.

Even though he anticipates a slow rollout, Ryan urges anyone with a qualifying medical condition to talk to their doctor about marijuana now.

Those conversations can be critical. Cincinnati may only have 14 doctors who can certify medical marijuana recommendations.

One of them is Blue Ash pain specialist Hal Blatman, who explained that people with ailments he’s not trained to treat will need a recommendation from a doctor who’s diagnosed the underlying condition.

“If it’s seizures, you need to see a neurologist before you see somebody like me,” Blatman said. “I’m certified in pain, so we’re going to handle pain visits and that sort of thing. But I won’t be doing anxiety. I won’t be doing depression. I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. You’d have to have that paperwork.”

WLWT investigator Todd Dykes asked Blatman how physicians he knows view cannabis as medicine.

“It goes all over the map,” Blatman said. “There’s people that believe. There’s people that don’t. But the science is really there, and there’s so much for us to learn. And there’s such a tremendous benefit that we now have ability to help people in ways we couldn’t do it before.”