The first of several medical marijuana dispensaries is about a month away from opening for business in Springfield. Pure Ohio Wellness LLC would be the first to open in Southwest Ohio.
A few other dispensaries are already operating in other parts of the state. Some Dayton addiction centers say they have concerns as the dispensaries begin operations.
So far, nine of 56 approved dispensaries for Ohio have opened since mid-January. During that time, more than 5,400 Ohioans have bought more than 200 pounds of medical marijuana, and more than 25,000 people have registered for the program.
Colleen Smith is director of substance abuse services with Samaritan Behavioral Health. She says, while there will be plenty of precautions in place once the dispensaries are operating, she worries that accidents will happen.
“Little kids get into it and pets get into it," she says, "and so the emergency room visits for children at the children's hospitals like in places like Colorado and some of the other states that have legalized recreational marijuana have significantly increased due to what they call marijuana poisoning. There's been a myth for a long time that you cannot overdose on marijuana [...]. You put too much of anything in your system it'll make you sick."
Smith says her concerns are tempered by the strict state regulations users will face once they’re registered in the medical marijuana program. However, she says, the real challenge may come if Ohio ever approves recreational use, when some dispensaries may want to switch over and sell the plant material.
"The other thing that a lot of people don't realize is that marijuana is still illegal federally, so that impacts a lot of decisions that people make,” she says.
Helen Jones-Kelley is the executive director of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Montgomery County (ADAMHS). She says her agency wants to stave off any potential problems that could come as a result of medical or recreational pot.
“We're trying really hard to get as much information out there as possible," she says. "We try to get people, if nothing else, to have a healthy relationship with their prescription drugs. That means taking them correctly. It also means storing them correctly, so that we can forestall the negative effects of this product being available to people.”
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy reports it expects up to 300,000 Ohioans are expected to take advantage of the medical pot program, but at least one media report suggests that as many as 3.5 million in the state could actually qualify for it.