COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The marijuana hasn't been planted yet but clinics where potential patients can get recommendations for medical marijuana have already started to open. Doctors at those clinics will help patients sign up for Ohio's new medical cannabis system.
"Our goal is to get people aware of the program, enrolled in the program and then guide them throughout the program," said Dr. Anand Dugar with Green Health Docs near Grandview Heights.
The cultivation sites have been announced but not certified by the state to open. That means medical-grade marijuana hasn't been planted yet. State officials just announced where the dispensaries will be located two weeks ago. Soon after that announcement other state officials said medical marijuana wouldn't be available by its September 8th deadline. People registering for the program will have to wait for the medication.
"You're doing it ahead of time and once the dispensary is open, you're ready to go while other people are kind of scrambling to get access to medicine," Dugar said.
So far 139 doctors have registered with the state to recommend medical marijuana. Industry experts expect that number to grow.
"You're not going to see thousands and thousands probably but you're going to see enough that you're going to have access as a patient throughout the state," said Thomas Rosenberger with the National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio.
Critics have said the state needs to speed up the process for registering doctors.
"Ohio patients need more doctors who can make recommendations for their care," said Ian James with GLA Holdings. "Unfortunately, at this rate, there will be 500 doctors eligible to prescribe medical marijuana to patients by the end of the year. In comparison, Pennsylvania has already signed up nearly 6,000 doctors and more than 36,000 registered patients.”
James is part of a group which has been licensed to run a dispensary but was denied one to build a cultivating site. He is part of a campaign aiming to legalize marijuana for non-medicinal purposes as well.
Green Health Docs has its first registration appointments scheduled for Friday morning. The program still has a ways to go but it's getting closer to becoming a reality.
"It's going to be hectic," Dugar said. "We're going to get a lot of phone calls and questions about the program."
The clinics won't have medical marijuana on site. Only dispensaries will be allowed to give it to patients.