CLEVELAND — One of the first people, if not the very first person, to purchase medical marijuana in Ohio on Jan. 16, 2019, thinks the much-anticipated opening of dispensaries is a “great day” for the state.
“I think it's a big win for patients in Ohio,” said Joan Caleodis, who has primary progressive multiple sclerosis, in a telephone interview after buying $200 worth of marijuana buds at CY+ Dispensary in Wintersville.
While Ohio has awarded provisional licenses to 56 dispensaries, only four opened Jan. 16: two in Wintersville — CY+ and Ohio Valley Natural Relief — The Botanist in Canton, and The Forest in Sandusky.
Ohio law allows physicians to issue recommendations to patients with one of the state's 21 qualifying medical conditions. Only plant materials, known as flowers or buds, are being sold at this point. Products such as edibles, tinctures, and topicals won't be available until cannabis processing facilities are finally operating.
Alex Griffith, 30, drove five hours from Cincinnati to Wintersville on Jan. 16 and became the second sale at CY+. A former Marine infantryman who served in Afghanistan, Griffith has severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and received a recommendation to use medical marijuana.
Griffith said he first used marijuana purchased by a friend in Las Vegas after he returned home from Afghanistan in 2014.
“I tried it and it was amazing,” Griffith said.
He refused to buy marijuana off the street because of paranoia about being arrested and prosecuted even though the medication prescribed by the VA, he said, comes with “terrible” side effects that make him feel like he's “walking through mud.”
“It just wasn't worth it, so I went back to pills,” he said. “Now I can switch back to cannabis, stop the pills and get my quality of life back.”
Caleodis said she has been using marijuana purchased outside of Ohio by a friend for around four years, allowing her to stop using most of her prescription medications. Cannabis bought off the streets is often “dirt weed” that's far less potent than what's available in Ohio dispensaries.
She said she ate some cannabis edibles Jan. 15, 2019, and got a good night's sleep.
“I didn't want to be late for my first day,” she said.
James Lynch, 53, of Washingtonville, was waiting with others to get inside CY+ on Jan. 16. He has a physician recommendation to treat chronic pain caused by a back injury and neuropathy. Other doctors, he said, wouldn't prescribe pain pills once they learned he smoked marijuana.
Lynch complained about the high prices at the dispensary but planned to buy an ounce, or 28.35 grams, that would cost him about $500, which is far more expensive than street prices but likely of better quality. Lynch said he plans to ignore the Ohio law that forbids people from smoking medical marijuana.
“They can take the vape (pen) and throw it out the window,” he said.
Democratic Ohio Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, a staunch advocate of legalizing medical marijuana, issued a statement Jan. 16 saying he's happy for those who were able to buy medical cannabis, but criticized the state for the four-month delay in rolling out Ohio's program.
Yuko urged Republican Gov. Mike DeWine to make full implementation of the medical marijuana program a priority.
“This is an opportunity for the new governor to do right by people who are suffering,” he said.
Featured image: Alex Griffith of Cincinnati, a U.S. Marine veteran, medicates with marijuana to treat severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Griffith, 30, drove five hours Jan. 16, 2019, to the CY+ Dispensary in Wintersville, where two of four medical marijuana stores in Ohio opened to the public. (Associated Press/Gene J. Puskar)
-- Mark Gillispie