Ohio’s first med­i­cal mar­i­juana har­vested

Pipeline to con­sumer mar­ket likely to be long

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Jackie Bor­chardt

COLUM­BUS – Ohio’s first le­gal med­i­cal mar­i­juana crop is be­ing har­vested this week, but it could be sev­eral months be­fore any will be in the hands of pa­tients.

Agri-Med Ohio LLC in Meigs County is in the mid­dle of its first har­vest. Well­spring Fields in Ravenna com­pleted its har­vest ear­lier this week. Both are smaller, “level II” med­i­cal mar­i­juana cul­ti­va­tors.

Flow­ers from Ohio’s first ma­ture plants will be dried and ready for sale in early Novem­ber. But when that mar­i­juana is sold de­pends on when the first test­ing lab and dis­pen­saries open.

As of Fri­day, none of the five statelicensed test­ing labs was op­er­at­ing, and none of the 56 li­censed dis­pen­saries had opened its doors. No pa­tients have been regis­tered for the pro­gram, but the Ohio Board of Phar­macy says the pa­tient and care­giver registry can be turned on as soon as Ohio’s mar­ket nears op­er­a­tion.

The state’s first test­ing lab could open at Hock­ing Tech­ni­cal Col­lege in early Novem­ber, and dis­pen­saries could be ready in De­cem­ber, state reg­u­la­tors told the Ohio Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Ad­vi­sory Board on Thurs­day.

Ohio is among 31 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have le­gal­ized cannabis for medic­i­nal use.

Ohio’s med­i­cal mar­i­juana law was signed in 2016 but gave state reg­u­la­tors two years to set up the rules and reg­u­la­tions for the pro­gram. Ohio missed its self-im­posed dead­line to be “fully op­er­a­tional” by Sept. 8 be­cause of sev­eral de­lays in the li­cens­ing process, law­suits and con­struc­tion de­lays.

Agri-Med Ohio is har­vest­ing plants now, owner Todd McCay told the Enquirer on Thurs­day. Dur­ing har­vest, plants are cut down at the base, trimmed and hung up­side down to dry, McCay said. This is fol­lowed by a cur­ing pe­riod last­ing sev­eral weeks.

McCay said he’s talk­ing with the five ap­proved test­ing labs and dis­pen­sary own­ers to see where he might be able to take his prod­uct as soon as pos­si­ble. Agri-Med plans to stag­ger its har­vests a few weeks apart and is fo­cus­ing on four to six cannabis strains.

“We’re go­ing to con­cen­trate on the med­i­cal side of it, and I think pa­tients are go­ing to drive what strains we con­tinue to grow,” McCay said.

He said the pro­gram has got­ten a slow start, but state reg­u­la­tors have been help­ful and easy to work with.

Well­spring Fields was the first cul­ti­va­tor to pass in­spec­tion and start grow­ing plants in Ohio. Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Claire Hob­son said the first har­vest was a lit­tle larger than a typ­i­cal crop. Hob­son ex­pects a test­ing lab will be open when the op­er­a­tion reaches that stage in a few weeks.

“The most im­por­tant thing is get­ting the pa­tients their medicine, and that’s been our driv­ing force the whole time,” Hob­son said.

Pa­tients with one of 21 qual­i­fy­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions can buy and use med­i­cal mar­i­juana if rec­om­mended to them by a physi­cian cer­ti­fied by the Ohio State Med­i­cal Board. Ohio law does not al­low mar­i­juana to be smoked or grown at home. Flower and other plant ma­te­rial sold is al­lowed to be con­sumed with a va­por­izer.

Mark Ham­lin, se­nior pol­icy ad­viser at the Ohio Depart­ment of Com­merce, said it will be up to the var­i­ous li­censed busi­nesses – cul­ti­va­tors, prod­uct pro­ces­sors, test­ing labs and dis­pen­saries – to de­ter­mine the pro­gram’s ac­tual start date.

When­ever that is, prod­uct se­lec­tion may be lim­ited at first to dried buds. Pro­ces­sors that will make mar­i­juana ed­i­bles, lo­tions, patches and other prod­ucts weren’t li­censed un­til Au­gust and have six months to set up their busi­nesses.

Dis­pen­saries are ex­pected to sell out quickly.

“The amount that’s go­ing to be avail­able is go­ing to serve hun­dreds, not thou­sands,” Ham­lin said.

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