Ohio medical marijuana patients claim lack of access is leading to more arrests

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Medical marijuana patients in Ohio say that a lack of access to legal cannabis is leading them to seek legal cannabis from other states, and some are being arrested for their trouble. With Ohio’s medical marijuana program in its infancy, so far only eight dispensaries have been licensed by the state to provide cannabis to patients. With short supplies and high prices at those outlets, some patients are traveling to neighboring Michigan for their medicine.

Located near the Ohio border, Morenci, Michigan has three cannabis dispensaries to serve the town’s population of 2,200 residents. Abigail Mull, manager of Stateline Wellness, told local media that much of the dispensary’s clientele is from the Buckeye State.

“Since day one it’s been more Ohio (patients) just because we are right there on the border,” Mull said. “So it’s nice and convenient for them – they don’t have to go up to Ann Arbor or Detroit.”

At Cannakings, another provisioning center (as dispensaries are known in Michigan) in Morenci, manager Kyle Schaffner said that a majority of the people the shop serves are from out of state.

“We have 2700 patients – (Ohio patients) are probably 60 percent of it,” said Schaffner.

MMJ from Other States Not Allowed

However, state law in Ohio says that patients may not bring medical marijuana home from another state unless that state has a reciprocity agreement with that state. To date, Ohio has not entered into any such agreements, although the state’s medical marijuana statute requires regulators to make a good faith effort to do so. Patients like Kelly Toole, who have jumped the gun and been ticketed for cannabis possession by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department after purchasing cannabis in Michigan, have been confused by the delay.

“It leaves the patients in a bad area. It leaves them without a definitive idea of what they are allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do,” Toole said.

More than half of those cited for cannabis possession in the county in recent months have been from another area.

“The only mistake I made in going to Michigan was going through Fulton County,” Toole added.

Patient Paradox

A spokeswoman for the state board of pharmacy acknowledged in an email the paradox that patients are in.

“For reciprocity, the Board has reached out to every state that has a marijuana program to review if a reciprocity agreement is possible. This included our neighboring states that have marijuana programs. At this time, the Board has not entered into a reciprocity agreement with any other state,” the statement reads.

“What a patient can and cannot do in another state depends on the relevant rules and regulations of the state where the patient is located. A patient cannot bring product into Ohio from another state unless that state has a reciprocity agreement with Ohio,” the spokeswoman continued.

Rep. Tavia Galonski, a Democrat from Akron, said that the situation may warrant a change in state law and the decriminalization of small quantities of cannabis.

“Isn’t it sad that we would make sick people with illnesses and injuries actually have to drive to another state,” Galonski said. “Maybe here is an opportunity for us to reduce some sentences to reduce some complications in the law like this one for people who have that registration card because they are ill or injured. I think we will be looking at that in the subcommittee.”

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