As 9th medical marijuana dispensary opens in Ohio, patients still face high prices

Ohio medical marijuana patients still face high prices
Medical marijuana patients still feel price pinch

COLUMBUS — More than 200 pounds of medical marijuana has been sold in Ohio since the program started this year, grossing more than $1.5 million in sales.

But with 5,400 active patients seeking marijuana from nine dispensaries, many patients are dealing with high demand and limited supply.

That simple economics equation has left some of Ohio’s patients feeling the pinch of high prices.

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“As the supply becomes more robust, we are going to have a lot better pricing for the patients, I would like it to be as cheap as possible because we could help as many people as possible. But, unfortunately, the prices are high right now,” said Brian Wingfield, co-owner of the Ohio Cannabis Company. “We are very similar to other markets opening. If you look at mature markets (like) Michigan that’s been open for a decade, the prices are slightly lower. We expect the prices to go down. We will be starting prices in the upper $30 price range and going up to the mid $50 just for a daily dose.”

A daily dose is less than three grams, Wingfield said.

“I really like that I am in an industry where I am actually going to help people feel better — be able to get their lives back,” Wingfield said.

The Ohio Cannabis Company is located in a nondescript building off Highway 36 in Coshocton, about 65 miles east of Columbus.

All of the patients interviewed by 10 Investigates Thursday said that they were using medical marijuana to help alleviate pain.

“By the end of the day, my face feels like it’s on fire. What the medical marijuana does for me is it relieves some of that pain, relieves some of the tension associated with that pain,” said Don Oates, who identified himself as both a “budtender” at the Ohio Cannabis Company, but also a cancer survivor.

“I have the empathy for the patients. I’m here to do what’s right for them,” he said.

Some patients told 10 Investigates that the slow rollout and months-long delay of Ohio’s medical marijuana programs forced them to seek out marijuana through “other means.” Some patients we questioned declined to elaborate, but others have gone to Michigan, which accepts out-of-state medical marijuana patients.

A review of Fulton County court records shows nearly two dozen people have been cited for marijuana possession. The sheriff’s office has denied that these patients were caught in any sort of narcotics sting operation, but dash camera video obtained by 10 Investigates showed that one deputy references “coinciding” with the state board of pharmacy.

The board of pharmacy told 10 Investigates that it has done educational programs and presentations for law enforcement agencies but denied that it helped orchestrate citations against patients.

“We are not instructing anybody to go out and make arrests. We are only instructing on the current status of rules and statutes that impact our licensees” said Erin Reed, a senior legal counsel with the state board of pharmacy.

State law requires the state board of pharmacy to make a good faith effort to form reciprocity agreements with other states like Michigan. This would allow patients in both states to access medical marijuana as long as they are registered.

But Reed said legal hurdles like trying to figure out how patient information could be shared between states have led to no agreements being reached.

Reed also said she anticipates that more dispensaries will open before year’s end — another factor that she says will help drive prices down in Ohio.

"I’m working really diligently with other states to reach those reciprocity agreements with other states and we will continue to do it as I said. Unfortunately, we don’t have any in place today,” Reed said.