Why is Ohio's medical marijuana so pricey?

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Ohio's medical marijuana program is often praised for being highly regulated.

But longtime cannabis activist Amy Wolfinbarger said Tuesday the regulations governing Ohio's newest industry may not be helping the people who need marijuana the most.

"A lot of our patients are disabled," Wolfinbarger said. "They're living on fixed incomes and the cost for their medication is very difficult for them to obtain. ... Nothing is covered by medical insurance, not even your doctor's visit."

New numbers from the state show the average price for a pound of cannabis is $7,528 or $470 an ounce, not including tax.

"It is disappointing for a program that was supposed to be designed for the patients of Ohio," Wolfinbarger said.

"One word, outrageous," Rob Ryan said. "Outrageously expensive."

Ryan runs the Ohio Patient Network. He doubts the current price of legal marijuana is doing anything to diminish the black market, where an ounce of pot costs a lot less than $470.

"It can range from anywhere from about a $100 to $300 an ounce," Ryan said.

Still, Ryan is hopeful prices at Ohio dispensaries will eventually come down.

"Right now it's a matter of supply and demand," he said. "Demand is high. Supply is very low."

Also, building large scale cultivation sites isn't free. Licensed growers also have to spend money to comply with the state's strict packaging rules and marijuana testing guidelines, which are used to control quality.

"I think a lot of us need to realize, too, that a lot of these owners are not activists," Wolfinbarger said. "The way the program was set up in the state, we have people that have put up hundreds of thousands of dollars into these facilities that are now just beginning to up and run. I'm sure they would like to recoup some of their money, so I think that's part of the problem (of) why the prices are so high in the beginning."

WLWT investigator Todd Dykes spoke to an industry insider Tuesday who said medical marijuana prices in Ohio are actually in line with other regulated states, like Pennsylvania, and cautioned against expecting a drastic price drop in the future, though he did say the price should adjust to whatever the marketplace supports.

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