Half of Ohio’s registered medical cannabis patients are deterred by high prices, data reveals

It remains illegal to purchase non-medicinal cannabis in the State of Ohio

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Half of Ohio’s registered medical cannabis patients are deterred by high prices, data reveals

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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On June 8, 2016, House Bill 523 was signed into law by the former Governor of Ohio, John Kasich. The signing of HB 523 kick-started the state’s medical cannabis industry. However, the system still has some flaws that need to be straightened out before all of Ohio’s medical cannabis patients can afford their medicine. 

The program, despite medical cannabis legalization being enacted three years ago, officially went live in January 2019. Data from the Ohio Cannabis Association shows that 42,000 patients had enrolled in the program since its inception. 

Medical cannabis sales are regulated and overseen by the Ohio State Pharmacy Board, State Medical Board and Department of Commerce. Unfortunately, sales data suggests that around 50 percent of Ohio’s registered patients are being turned away from dispensaries by high prices.

Who is eligible for medical cannabis in Ohio?

Not everybody can obtain a doctor’s recommendation to receive medical cannabis in Ohio under the state’s program. A licensed healthcare practitioner or doctor must first diagnose a patient with one or more of the following medical conditions/ailments before prescribing cannabis as a medicine:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  • Chronic pain (severe or intractable)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy/seizure disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Spinal cord disease or injury
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Traumatic brain injury 
  • Ulcerative colitis

Why is medical cannabis so expensive in Ohio?

While it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason why Ohio’s medical cannabis prices are proving too steep for patients, there are a few factors that come into play. For example, it remains illegal to purchase non-medicinal cannabis in the State of Ohio. This means that individuals who need plant-based medicine are limited to purchasing it from a licensed dispensary or turning to the black market.

The process of applying for medical cannabis in Ohio could also be attributed to the state’s poor sales figures. Before the medicine can be purchased from a dispensary, patients must first visit a physician and undergo an assessment. Only after this can someone receive a recommendation to apply for a medical cannabis card.

Those who can’t afford the cost of weed in Ohio cannot legally grow their own either, nor can they smoke medicinal-grade cannabis in its flower form. Edibles, oils, topical solutions and transdermal patches are offered as an alternative. To make matters worse for medical cannabis patients in Ohio, their medicine is not covered by insurance.

Transporting the plant across state lines is not allowed, so buying bud from a nearby cannabis-friendly state like Michigan and bringing it home to Ohio is out of the question, too. Furthermore, unemployment compensation is not yet available for patients who are terminated from the workplace for using cannabis; it is currently legal for employers to terminate an employee’s contract for using medical cannabis, even if a healthcare provider recommended it.