Butler County’s 2 medical marijuana shops are now open. What’s next?

A patient talks to a security guard outside Strawberry Fields, one of two medical marijuana dispensaries in Butler County. The business at 300 N. Main St. in Monroe officially opened Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, two days after its soft opening. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF
A patient talks to a security guard outside Strawberry Fields, one of two medical marijuana dispensaries in Butler County. The business at 300 N. Main St. in Monroe officially opened Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, two days after its soft opening. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

Butler County’s two medical marijuana dispensaries opened last week, and state officials say there could be more coming across the state if demand increases..

The dispensaries opened in Seven Mile on Thursday and Monroe on Friday to give Butler County its first foothold in the state medical marijuana business. With demand strong so far in the program, officials say they’re closely monitoring the supply.

“We’re going to start examining the number of patients and looking at opportunities for potential additional dispensaries,” Cameron McNamee, director of policy and communication for the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. “We made it clear that the program is flexible, so that’s why we started with a smaller number and it will grow with the demand of the patients in Ohio.”

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The board has seen “a large spike” in the number of patients, something McNamee said was the result of how easy the state made the registration process, allowing patients to do so electronically instead of issuing a card and sending it to patients.

As of Sept. 30, 63,819 patients had registered for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, with 40,000 actually purchasing medical marijuana, McNamee said.

“We are seeing those numbers increase month over month, and so that will sort of trigger us to evaluate programmatic needs and where demand is, and see if needed, where additional dispensaries may have to be placed,” he said.

The board is one of three state agencies that administer the Ohio Medical Marijuana Program. The other two are the State Medical Board of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Commerce.

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Medical cannabis patients must have one or more of 21 conditions, including chronic, severe or intractable pain, the most commonly cited reason for the use of medical marijuana..

Conditions not yet included on the list include are anxiety, opiate use, disorder and autism. The State Medical Board solicits requests to add new conditions annually.

Regardless of whether the amount of dispensaries increases, that amount of conditions should be expanded, according to CannAscend CEO Jimmy Gould, who on Friday officially opened the first of four Strawberry Fields medical marijuana dispensaries in Monroe.

“One of the biggest issues our state is facing is opioid overdose,” Gould told this news outlet. “If you want to get somebody off of opioids, you need to work with other regimens that are going to help them get off. There’s no reason in the world why we shouldn’t be doing this.”

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Gould said the State Medical Board “needs to step up on this one big time.”

“It’s an alternative,” he said. “If you have a kid with autism, why not? I mean, you need to do anything you can to give a better quality of life to people who are suffering, and that’s what this is about.”

In addition, “we need to find out what regulations are critical and what regulations need to be softened a little bit,” Gould said. For example, dispensaries are not allowed to advertise.

“That makes it difficult,” he said. “Right now we’re a startup industry and we want to be a thriving industry.”

As state medical cannabis programs evolve and mature, opportunities to refine, correct and enhance medical marijuana programs become more evident than they were at the time of program inception, according to Andrew Wagner, head of operations, Bloom Medicinals, which opened a new location Thursday in Seven Mile.

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“It’s difficult to say what the next steps will or should be for the State of Ohio, however, we anticipate that registered patients, caregivers and physicians will continue to share their experiences and desires for the program with both their elected officials and regulatory officials,” Wagner said.

“The state has established a formal process for residents and patients to petition the commission to consider additional qualifying medical conditions, and we anticipate that as more and more research is published and new information comes to light, patients will avail themselves of this valuable mechanism the state has created.

“Additionally, as real world experience in administering the program is sure to bring greater clarity and insight to previously unconsidered opportunities, we anticipate the State will continue to refine the program to inure to the best interests of both its patients suffering from qualifying medical conditions, and community stakeholders at large.”

Butler County’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Strawberry Fields, 300 N. Main St., Monroe

513-506-1857

Explorewww.strawberryfieldsohio.com

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Bloom Medicinals, 403 South Main St., Seven Mile

513-447-6459

Explorewww.bloomohio.com

noon to 7 p.m. Monday & Wednesday through Saturday