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Bud Bummer in the Buckeye State: Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Program Delayed

It’s been two years since Ohio legalized medical cannabis, and licensed cultivators haven’t begun harvesting yet. State regulators are still not certain when dispensary doors will open to patients.

by Zach Harris

Ohio lawmakers and cannabis advocates are up in arms this week after state regulators announced yet another indefinite delay to the Buckeye State's long-awaited medical marijuana program.

According to concurrent reports from Cleveland.com and the Cincinnati Enquirer, none of Ohio's 25 licensed cannabis cultivators have received final approval to put plants in the ground, and without any bud growing, regulators say that there is no way they can meet the state's previously-scheduled September 8th dispensary sales start date.

"We should have done better. But we didn't do better," Ohio Democratic Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko told WOSU Public Radio about the medical marijuana program's delay. "And now, I can only hope and pray that someone wakes up and says, Ok, listen, what can we do to expedite this as quickly as possible and make this right?"

Ohio's medical marijuana law was signed by Governor John Kasich in May of 2016, but has since seen two years of regulatory stagnation and processing errors. Earlier this year, as the state Department of Commerce finally began scoring and awarding canna-business applications, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost pointed out a "critical flaw" in department information safety protocols that once again halted the permitting process.

Now, even with 25 ganjapreneurs given provisional cultivation licenses, regulators say that none of the expected growers have passed a final inspection. Because cannabis plants harvested indoors need 3-4 months to grow, simple math indicates that those pot farms are already well behind schedule.

To make up for the state's repeated medical marijuana delays, some Ohio residents are crossing state lines into Michigan, where a number of dispensaries have reportedly accepted Buckeye State cannabis recommendations as valid. Still, those out-of-state purchases are not sanctioned by Ohio law enforcement, leaving some desperate patients stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"Every day that this is delayed, people who are very sick, whose medicine is not working for them, they're making terrible decisions: to uproot their families, to engage in criminal behavior (to get marijuana) or to wait," Nicole Scholten, a cannabis advocate and Ohio parent hoping to treat her epileptic daughter with medical marijuana, told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

To reconcile the delays as quickly as possible, Department of Commerce regulators say that they have two final pre-cultivation inspections scheduled this month and seven more on the books for July. If those growers are cleared, it is possible that Buckeye State patients could have access to the plant-based medicine by the end of the year.

At least one potential Ohio pot supplier, Pure Ohio Wellness LLC, was inspected in May, but has still not been certified to begin cultivation.

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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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