A top medical cannabis official in Ohio said last week that the state would like to significantly increase the number of available dispensary licenses in a move to address widening demand.
Cleveland.com reports that Justin Sheridan, the director of medical marijuana operations at the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, said Thursday that “regulators want to double the number of dispensary licenses in the state to satisfy patient demand, which has been much higher than anticipated since the program became operational.”
Ohio has 58 medical cannabis dispensaries at the moment, according to the website. Speaking at Ohio State University last week, Sheridan said that the board is currently “working on adding 73 new dispensary licenses,” Cleveland.com reported.
According to the website, Sheridan said that the state Board of Pharmacy “received 1,400 applications for new dispensaries” in November, and that the “Ohio Lottery conducted a drawing to determine which companies would receive provisional dispensary licenses.”
The move to expand the number of dispensaries is a testament to the success of Ohio’s medical cannabis program, which launched sales in 2019, three years after lawmakers there passed a measure legalizing the treatment.
When the first medical cannabis dispensaries opened in Ohio, “regulators projected 12,000 to 24,000 patients in the first two years,” according to Cleveland.com.
But instead, by February of last year, “there were 136,507 registered patients,” the website said, and today “there are 252,139.”
“In addition to more patients, some areas of the state have no dispensaries, including several rural areas in Northwestern and Western Ohio. In addition, some areas in southeastern Ohio only have one dispensary across several counties,” the website said, detailing the problem facing patients in the state.
Last month, the state’s Department of Commerce Medical Marijuana Control Program reported that the medical cannabis program had generated roughly $725 million in revenue.
Under the state’s medical cannabis law, the treatment is available to patients with a host of qualifying conditions, including: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, Spasticity, spinal cord disease or injury, terminal illness, Tourette syndrome, traumatic brain injury and ulcerative colitis.
In recent years, lawmakers have grappled with whether or not to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions, as 17 other states have done.
Two years ago, the state’s Medical Board rejected a bid to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions after hearing testimony from proponents and opponents. A group of children’s hospitals in the state were among the latter group.
“The inclusion of autism and anxiety as conditions has the potential to negatively impact the health and well being of thousands of children in Ohio,” Sarah Kincaid of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association told regulators on the board at the time. “There is little rigorous evidence that marijuana or its derivatives is of benefit for patients with autism and anxiety, but there is a substantial association between cannabis use and the onset or worsening of several psychiatric conditions.”
Last month, lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow patients with autism to receive medical cannabis.
“This bill is a direct result of the needs and wants of the people of Ohio who are on the autism spectrum,” said one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Democratic state House Representative Juanita Brent. “It will help ensure legal access to a plant-based solution free from costly prescription medications or other outdated and sometimes harmful treatments.”