CINCINNATI — Potential bottlenecks are brewing as Ohio races against a September deadline to have its medical marijuana program fully up and running.
Among the biggest unknowns: Will enough doctors sign up to recommend the newly legal drug?
“This is a big issue, because the physicians are the ones with their hands on the spigot,” said Dr. Mark Welty, who is a board member for the Ohio Patient Network — a patient and cannabis advocate nonprofit. “They will control how quickly this program begins to flow.”
Under Ohio’s laws, patients are only eligible to use medical marijuana if they have one of 21 qualifying conditions and a recommendation from a doctor.
Before making any recommendations to patients, doctors must take a two-hour state-approved training course from one of three vendors Ohio has tapped to deliver the online and in-person classes. After that, a physician must then apply through an online portal to officially be certified with Ohio’s Medical Board.
That online system isn’t operational yet, though state officials have said it should be by early spring.
Hear Lisa Bernard-Kuhn discuss Ohio’s latest snag in the legalization of medical marijuana starting at 39:00:
Extra Step Assurance, one of the three approved training firms, has been hosting courses for physicians for several months. The $259 course covers a range of topics, including peer-reviewed research on the uses for medical marijuana, dosing recommendations and busting myths about medical cannabis. More than 100 Ohio physicians have taken Extra Step’s course, said Cheryl McDaniel, the firm’s CEO.
“That sounds exciting on one hand, but on the other… it’s a very slow start,” said McDaniel, noting that as many as 200,000 Ohio residents could be eligible to use medical marijuana.
A second training firm, The Medical Cannabis Institute also told WCPO that the