The state’s medical marijuana program is not going to be ready for patients on the scheduled start date on September 8. And there's no clear idea on when it will begin.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko has been pushing for medical marijuana for years. He says officials from the state agency that oversees the medical marijuana program have told him none of the cultivators licensed by the state are growing marijuana right now and only one is close to starting the process.
“To say I was angry is an understatement," Yuko says.
The Ohio Department of Commerce, which oversees the state’s medical marijuana program, says there’s no way the September 8 deadline can be met. Spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski says it was expected that the companies that had been given licenses to grow marijuana needed to be ready to start growing it in May.
“We thought we were going to have three,” Gostomski says. “One inspection occurred. No certificates of operation have been issued at this time.”
Gostomski says the company that was inspected didn’t pass. So that business is making the changes prescribed by inspectors.
Yuko says he is furious because patients who want medical marijuana were counting on getting it in September. And now he says veterans suffering from PTSD, adults battling cancer and children experiencing massive seizures will have to wait with time they don’t have.
“To hold a child… to hold them in your arms. To have them have that seizure in your arms. To see the Mom and Dad living in fear, day in and day out, knowing that next seizure could cause brain damage or death. We had to do better,” Yuko says. “We should have done better. But we didn’t do better. And now, I can only hope and pray that someone wakes up and says ok, listen, what can we do to expedite this as quickly as possible and make this right.”
The Department of Commerce had said earlier this year that the medical marijuana program would still be operational on September 8, but only partially – not all growers, processors and dispensaries would be up and running at full strength.
For her part, Gostomski says she can’t give a certain start date for the program.
“We do have two level 2’s that have expressed interest for their inspections in June and then we have seven more in July, five of which are our large cultivators,” she says. “So we have nine inspections coming up in the coming weeks and if they receive their certificates of operations, all nine of those businesses can start cultivating their products and that’s when we can start to see products on the shelves in dispensaries in Ohio.”
But Yuko says those who want medical marijuana have waited for two years, since lawmakers passed the law that created the program. He says every day that goes on is one too many for the ill Ohioans who need medical marijuana right now.