Ohio’s first medical marijuana sales could happen at the end of next week – provided everything happens as planned.
Medical marijuana has been grown and harvested, and one dispensary is ready to open its doors. But all marijuana flower and products must be tested for potency and contaminants by an independent lab before they can be sold.
Two testing labs have received final certificates of operation from the state. Both were collecting samples from some of the 29 state-licensed marijuana cultivators on Wednesday.
Hocking Technical College’s testing lab received its certificate of operation Tuesday. Lab director Jonathan Cachat said the lab could have results back to cultivators by mid-week next week.
CY+ dispensary, in eastern Ohio’s Wintersville, is targeting the end of next week for its first sale, spokesman Jason Erkes said. It will be the first of the 56 state-licensed retail stores to open.
Another four dispensaries are scheduled for final inspections this month. Dispensaries will only sell dried flower at first, and supplies will be limited.
Ohio’s medical marijuana program was supposed to be operational four months ago but has faced a number of delays. And there are a few hurdles remaining that could push back that date.
It’s possible Hocking could run into an issue with the testing process. Hocking is only the second lab approved by the state to begin testing.
The first, North Coast Laboratories in Northeast Ohio, initially projected early January to get test results back to cultivators but then pushed back its estimate to the first week of February.
North Coast needed a few weeks to calibrate its testing machinery, spokesman Joe Moorhead said last week, and the company hit a snag acquiring control strains of microbes.
But that had already changed by Wednesday, and North Coast was also collecting samples from cultivators.
The state requires labs to test for cannabinoids such as THC, which creates a high, and CBD, which doesn’t, as well as pesticides, mold, lead and other contaminants.
And there’s one other thing that could go wrong: the state’s technology for tracking medical marijuana supply and making a sale.
Ohio law allows patients with one of 21 qualifying medical conditions to buy and use medical marijuana if recommended to them by a state-certified physician. The patient and caregiver registry opened Dec. 3, and 3,575 patients registered in the first four weeks.
Ohio’s medical marijuana industry involves four different businesses: cultivators that grow marijuana, processors that make marijuana-infused products, testing labs and dispensaries. At this point, every link in the supply chain is in place.
Connecting them all: three software systems that track all products from seed to sale and record how much marijuana a patient has purchased. Plants are given an ID on a bar code, which follows the plant as it is harvested, turned into edibles or other products and sold at dispensaries.
The seed-to-sale system is run by Franwell/Metrc, which is used in at least 11 state marijuana markets. Ohio has paid the company more than $400,000 so far to set up the system.
Other states have had problems with their seed-to-sale tracking systems. In Pennsylvania, seed-to-sale software caused problems for cultivators trying to record shipments.
Dispensaries experienced slowdowns and shutdowns during several months after sales began in February 2018, according to news reports. Some dispensaries turned to pen and paper or offline spreadsheets to track sales while the system was down.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which oversees dispensaries, has tested the system, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.