To the 21 conditions that already qualify for medical marijuana, SB 261 will add:
• Autism Spectrum Disorder
• Cramping or chronic muscle spasms
• Caring for the elderly or terminally ill
Opioid use disorder
• Any other condition the doctor thinks medical marijuana will help.
“This is kind of a generic statement that would use a physician’s education to make a decision,” said Hoffman, who is also a physician.
I asked Senator Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, how Hoffman compiled the expanded list of eligible cases, and how physicians’ discretion in prescribing unspecified cases would be structured.
Hoffman said the conditions mentioned came from advocacy groups, and that prescriptions for medical marijuana would be monitored in the same way as all other prescriptions.
“It’s up to the doctor’s education to say that’s a good reason or not,” he said.
Among the bill’s supporters is Andrew Rayburn, owner of Buckeye Relief in Eastlake, Ohio’s first Level I farmer and healer. He also heads the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association, and plans to expand his business.
“We will open our first dispensary around February 1,” Rayburn said.
He said the number of Ohio patients eligible for medical marijuana is growing by 5,000 to 10,000 per month, but only 57 dispensaries exist statewide. Rayburn said there is an “application window” for 73 more, and that should help bring prices down.
“The final price of our products happens at the dispensary level,” he said.
Medical marijuana costs Ohio patients about $310 an ounce, Hoffman said, “which is far more than any other surrounding state.” He said the main reason many qualified people don’t buy medical marijuana is because they can’t afford it.
As of September, according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, approximately 360,000 people in Ohio have been recommended for medical marijuana use, but only about 130,000 have active registration and recommendations. In all, less than 200,000 people purchased from the licensed dispensaries.
Ohio issues two tiers of marijuana cultivation licenses. The first level license allows for a growing operation of up to 25,000 square feet, while the second level allows up to 3,000 square feet. Farmers complained that these levels were set when few people were eligible to receive the drugs.
Hoffman’s Senate Bill 261 would write a September announcement from the Ohio Department of Commerce in September that licensed farmers could apply to expand their operations. Under the new rules, Level 1 license holders can grow up to 75,000 square feet, and Level 2 growers can use up to 20,000 square feet.
The proposal would also increase the number of dispensaries allowed in the state, based on the number of patients. In some areas, such as northwest Ohio, people may have to drive an hour to find a dispensary, Hoffman said. His bill would allow one dispensary to open for every 1,000 eligible patients in the state.
Today, there are more than 6,000 patients per dispensary in the state, Hoffman said.
Tim Johnson, president of the Ohio Cannabis Company and the Chamber of Cannabis Commerce and Cannabis Safety First, introduced himself as a US Air Force veteran, retired law enforcement officer, medical marijuana patient, and one of the drivers behind HB 523.
He supported SB 261, but urged lawmakers to add legal protections for patients’ jobs, parental rights and gun ownership.
The bill would also expand the ways medical marijuana can be administered. It can currently actually be taken as an oil, tincture, vegetable matter, edible, or patch. Hoffman’s invoice would add:
• Pills, capsules and suppositories.
• Oral sachets, strips or sprays.
• Sprays, ointments and topical preparations.
• Any other form approved by the state pharmacy council.
Hoffman said there is still no consideration for allowing medical marijuana users to smoke it.
The bill would allow licensed dispensaries to advertise, on social media or elsewhere, without prior approval from the Marijuana Control Department. Licensed dispensaries can also display their products in-store and in advertisements.
For now, Hoffman said, all advertisements must be submitted to the state for pre-approval.
Hoffman said the new rules will keep the adjustment made to COVID-19, allowing for dispensing with sidewalk driving. He said many disabled patients, especially veterans, find it difficult to get out of vehicles and get into a building.
Hoffman introduced the bill on November 9, and it was referred to the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee. Co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yoko, De Richmond Heights.