Just over half of Ohio’s medical cannabis patients have some level of satisfaction with the program, according to a survey of cannabis patients released last week by the Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. State data compiled for the study also found that while 546,000 people had been recommended to the program by a physician, less than half that number actually registered, and half that number again are active participants in the program.
Presented in a dry, “just the facts” manner, the survey of 2,500 Ohio medical patients found a tepid success for the state’s four year old medical cannabis program, a with a majority of recommended patients declining to participate, a slightly declining number of doctors missing prescriptions, and average cannabis prices hovering somewhere between skyhigh prices in Pennsylvania and cellar-dwelling prices in Michigan.
According to the survey, many patients choose to not participate in the program because Ohio law does not provide legal protection to registered patients. Legally, registered patients can be rejected from state programs or discriminated against by employers or law enforcement because of their enrollment. Over half of surveyed patients expressed dissatisfaction with the program because of a lack of legal protection with employers and a quarter due to a lack of legal protection for housing discrimination.
Simon Dunkle, a medical patient and Board Secretary for NORML Appalachia Ohio, says he was rejected from the state’s Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation because of his patient status, and knows other patients who have dropped their enrollment because of similar discrimination.
“[Patients] get into it, and then they get advice about how [bosses] will find out about it at your job. They’ll know when you get pulled over. There becomes a realization that this will follow you when you start the process,” of becoming a medical patient, Dunkle said.
The survey found a big majority of respondents, 68%, are using cannabis to manage pain, with a third managing PTSD, and another third using it to manage arthritis.
Meanwhile, almost 60% of respondents said they were within 15 miles of a dispensary, a number that should go up significantly, as the state awarded 71 licenses to more than double the number of dispensaries this year.
Although Ohio’s medical patients have regular, legal access to cannabis, the underground market continues to exhibit a pull on the state’s best, law-abiding consumers. Almost one fifth of survey respondents said they were either purchasing cannabis from the unregulated market, growing it illegally at home, or purchasing cannabis from friends or family. For those not purchasing from a legal dispensary, price was by far the biggest driving factor, according to the survey.
Still, the fact that medical cannabis is legal should not be dismissed, says Dunkle.
“We have medical marijuana use in Ohio. It’s going to be real hard to go back from this. But it could have been so much better,” he said.