An announcement about Ohio’s medical marijuana program, scheduled for Wednesday, has been pushed back to early June.
That’s when state officials are expected to announce where dispensaries will be located throughout the state and who will operate them.
In addition to the dispensary delay, there’s growing concern about the small number of Ohio doctors who’ve been certified to recommend patients receive a medical marijuana card.
It all points to a bumpy rollout for a program that’s supposed to be ready to go in just three months.
“The state has dragged its feet on this,” said Rob Ryan, executive director of a nonprofit marijuana advocacy group called the Ohio Patients Network.
Few people know as much about cannabis as Ryan. He said it’s helped him overcome three bouts of cancer.
“There is no doubt in my mind that cannabis, that’s its real name, OK, has medical benefits,” Ryan said. “There is no doubt.”
Agree or disagree with Ryan, it’s hard to believe that Ohio’s medical pot program will be fully operational by September as required by law.
“You know, things never go as smoothly as you’d like,” Dr. Hal Blatman said.
Blatman, who runs Blatman Health and Wellness Center in Blue Ash, is one of only 89 doctors in Ohio, including 14 in Cincinnati, who’ve been certified to recommend cannabis to patients with 21 qualifying conditions.
“I just did a 16-hour course in addition to the two-hour course required by the state of Ohio,” Blatman said. “There’s so much information for us to learn.”
While the program’s launch may end up being uneven, Blatman is confident marijuana will be a boon for patients who are eager to learn more about its medicinal qualities.
“A year ago I couldn’t have this conversation with a patient,” Blatman said. “Now we can have all kinds of conversations. And you’d be amazed how many people would rather get off some of the medicine that’s dangerous and use this instead.”
Ohio residents who want to use medical marijuana will need patient identification cards, which have yet to be issued by the state.
At this point, it’s hard to tell how many people will request an ID card, but even if Ohio’s medical marijuana patient population is on the low end of estimates – in the tens of thousands – a certified doctor like Blatman could see his patient load explode, which might make it a challenge just to get an appointment.
It’s also not clear what a visit to a certified doctor might cost, whether a patient will also be required to see his or her primary doctor as part of the process, and what kind of follow-up visits will be necessary to refill a 90-day prescription for medical marijuana.