Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Program Couch-Locked By Bureaucracy And Politics

Two years after medical cannabis was legalized in September 2016, Ohio’s program has been plagued by court battles, disputes over miscounted cultivator licenses, clerical errors and auditing flaws.

Applicants hoping to open dispensaries will have to bide their time while the Ohio Pharmacy Board postpones licensing for medical cannabis dispensaries, but patients and caregivers say delays can be deadly.

Nicole Scholten’s 14-year-old daughter, Lucy, has epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

“I wish I could say I was shocked,” Scholten told Marijuana.com. “We’ve got children, like Lucy, who don’t respond to traditional drugs and we know medical cannabis can help their seizures.”

Scholten is the director of Ohio Family Cann, a statewide advocacy group for families of children with catastrophic life-limiting disorders.

“We’ve studied, we’ve done our due diligence, and some families from our group have even moved to Colorado. We know what we need for our children,” said Scholten, formerly a schoolteacher in Cincinnati and now a full-time caregiver to Lucy.

Robert Ryan, Executive Director of Ohio Patients Network, called the delay another example of how the current administration does not support the state’s medical cannabis program.

“From the beginning, the Pharmacy Board conjured up a complicated set of regulations for medical marijuana. They act like they’re handling plutonium,” Ryan, a retired aerospace engineer, told Marijuana.com. “They didn’t design a viable program because they have no interest in making it work. There’s been official obstruction every step of the way.”

Ohio Pharmacy Board spokesperson Cameron McNamee told Marijuana.com that the decision to postpone “was due to some unexpected delays in information required to validate an applicant meets the minimum license qualifications, background checks, 500-foot rule, etc.”

McNamee clarified that the delay had nothing to do with earlier controversies that have caused numerous setbacks.

On several occasions during the past six months, the Ohio Auditor’s office uncovered errors in how regulators scored applications for cannabis grow licenses.  

Although the Department of Commerce, which oversees cannabis cultivators, processors and testing labs, acknowledged the discrepancies, lawsuits abound.

The Commerce Department contracted Ernst & Young to undertake an independent review, validate all scores and defend it in pending court battles, as well as the 67 administrative appeals from unsuccessful applicants.  

Ohio judges recently dismissed several lawsuits and a request from some lawmakers to start over from scratch.

McNamee said the Pharmacy Board will release the final list of dispensaries in June 2018.

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