Ohio Board of Pharmacy Publishes Updated Patient & Caregiver Numbers for April 2021

The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy today published updated patient & caregiver numbers for April 2021. These numbers include:

  • Recommendations
  • 197,816 Registered patients
    • 12,612 Patients with Veteran Status
    • 13,870 Patients with Indigent Status
    • 779 Patients with a Terminal Diagnosis
  • 158,397 Unique patients who purchased medical marijuana (as reported to OARRS by licensed dispensaries)
  • 21,989 Registered Caregivers

For the full list of program numbers, please visit the Program Update page.

Choctaw Nation Tribal Council Holds Special Session to Amend Public Health and Safety Code

OKLAHOMA:The Choctaw Nation Tribal Council held a Special Session on April 20, 2021, and voted to amend its Public Health and Safety Code regarding medical marijuana. The amendment will be automatically repealed on Nov. 13, 2021, and other legislation will be adopted. The amendment passed by an 11-1 vote.

Following the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruling in the Sizemore case, applying the McGirt decision to the Choctaw Nation reservation, state-issued medical marijuana cards or business licenses were not recognized by the Choctaw Nation laws. Without an amendment, Native Americans in possession of a valid state medical marijuana license, within the Choctaw Nation reservation, could have been arrested and charged for marijuana-related offenses in tribal court. In November, Tribal Council will pass a new code covering medicinal marijuana or an extension of this temporary measure, otherwise the permitted use of medicinal marijuana within the Choctaw Reservation will expire.

In discussion of the amendment, Tribal Council indicated that their intent is to research this issue further and propose better rules and regulations concerning medical marijuana for Native Americans within the Choctaw Nation reservation that minimize misuse of medical marijuana.

For more information on the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council, including the full text of the measures passed in the session, please visit https://www.choctawnation.com/government/tribal-council/council-meetings-and-bills.

Ohio Board of Pharmacy to Allocate Additional Provisional Dispensary Licensees

OHIO:  On April 19, 2021, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy approved increasing the number of dispensary licenses in Ohio by 73. If all 73 licenses are awarded, this will bring the total number of dispensary licenses to 130 (57 current + 73 approved).

A copy of the presentation can be accessed here: www.pharmacy.ohio.gov/RFA2overview
A frequently asked questions document can be accessed here: www.pharmacy.ohio.gov/RFA2FAQ
Next Steps: The licenses will be awarded using an application process (known as RFA II) that is expected to be announced in spring/summer 2021. The timing of this announcement will be based on when the Board’s pending rule changes regarding the application process are made final.
As previously done, RFA II will require applicants to specify the district(s) wherein they are applying, and provisional dispensary licenses will be awarded based on those districts. The districts will remain the same as in the previous RFA. Dispensary applications will then be evaluated to determine who is a qualified applicant.
As indicated in the presentation, all viable applications will then be entered into a lottery system, wherein individual lotteries will be held for each dispensary district with available licenses. A lottery system for qualified applicants requires the Board to consider objective, rather than subjective, criteria which can result in a fairer, more streamlined system for awarding dispensary licenses.
More information on RFA II will be posted to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program website (www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov) when the application process is announced in spring/summer 2021. Those who are interested are encouraged to sign up for updates on the Program’s homepage.

Medical Marijuana Program Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary, Continues Commitment to Patients in Pennsylvania

PENNSYLVANIA:  Governor Tom Wolf today commemorated the five-year anniversary of Act 16 of 2016, better known as the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, which established the medical marijuana program in the commonwealth.

Close to 553,000 patients and caregivers are registered for the program in order to obtain medical marijuana for one of 23 serious medical conditions. There are more than 327,400 active certifications as part of the program.

“On the five-year anniversary of the creation of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, we continue to forge ahead in getting medicine to those with serious medical conditions,” Gov. Wolf said. “The work that the Department of Health does to ensure that products are available and that patients are able to receive medicine as seamlessly as possible, particularly during the pandemic, is exemplary.”

All of the 114 operational dispensaries are open and dispensing products to patients. Twenty-eight grower/processors are operational, with 23 shipping product to dispensaries. Many of these grower/processors have recently expanded their location, or are in the process of doing so to help ensure that they are able to provide more products to those with one of the 23 serious medical conditions eligible for use of medical marijuana products.

“In addition to the well-run medical marijuana program, the department is very proud of its unique and first-of-its-kind medical marijuana research program,” said Acting Sec. of Health Alison Beam. “It is clear that the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program is among the most successful programs across the country.”

The clinical research program, guided by Act 43 of 2018, allows for eight clinical registrants who each must hold both a grower/processor and a dispensary permit. Clinical registrants must have a research contract with one of eight approved academic clinical research centers.

Active cardholders are continuing to visit dispensaries more than once a month to get treatment for a serious medical condition. More than 31.2 million products have been sold since the start of the program, and total sales within the program are close to $2.6 billion, which includes sales by the grower/processors to the dispensaries, and sales by the dispensaries to patients and caregivers. More than $1.5 billion in sales has been from the dispensaries to patients.

More than 2,100 physicians have registered for the program, more than 1,530 of whom have been approved as practitioners.

“From before I signed the Act, the state’s medical marijuana program’s success has been a tribute to the support received from patients and caregivers,” Gov. Wolf said. “The dedication from patients and caregivers in offering guidance and support is a testament to the value of this significant program.”

As a sign of the program’s continued commitment to get medical marijuana to patients, in March of 2020 the program temporarily suspended certain statutory and regulatory provisions in order to improve access to this form of medication during the COVID-19 emergency to:

  • Allow dispensary employees to provide medical marijuana to cardholders in their vehicles on the facility’s property;
  • Remove the current cap that limits the number of patients assigned to one caregiver, to allow for more caregivers to patients in need;
  • Eliminate background checks for caregiver applications, limited to renewal applications only, in order to expedite the caregiver renewal process;
  • Suspend in-person consultations and allow for remote consultations between approved practitioners and medical marijuana patients; and
  • Suspend limitation on medical marijuana dispensing to 30 days by requiring approved practitioners to notate on the patient’s certification to dispense a 90-day supply.
  • Suspend requirement for a medical professional – physician, pharmacist, physician assistant or certified registered nurse practitioner – to be on site at the dispensary during dispensing hours, which allows for medical professionals to work remotely.

The statutory and regulatory suspensions will remain in place for as long as the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency is in effect.

Congressman Joyce Leads Bipartisan Effort to Allow VA Doctors to Recommend Medical Cannabis to Veterans

Joins Rep. Lee, Senator Schatz in introducing Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act of 2021

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) joined his fellow Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) in introducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act of 2021. Senator Brian Schatz (HI) has introduced the bill in the Senate.

This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss, recommend and prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in states that have established medical marijuana programs. Currently, VA doctors are prohibited from doing so as the federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance. According to a 2017 American Legion survey more than 90% of veteran households support marijuana research and 82% want to see medical cannabis designated as a federally legal treatment option.

“There is a growing body of evidence about the beneficial uses of medical cannabis as treatment for PTSD and chronic pain, two terrible conditions that plague many of our veterans,” said Joyce. “If a state has made it legal, like Ohio has, the federal government should not be preventing a VA doctor from recommending medical cannabis if they believe that treatment is right for their patient. As the son of a World War II veteran who was wounded on the battlefield, I’ve seen firsthand the many challenges our nation’s heroes face when they return home. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important bill and will continue to do everything in my power to ensure we are providing our veterans with the care they need to overcome the wounds of war.”

The legislation would also create a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana and their doctors. Additionally, the bill would direct the VA to research the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain, as well as the relationship between medical marijuana programs and a potential reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.

In a recent study, researchers found that those who suffer from PTSD who used cannabis saw greater reductions in their PTSD symptoms and were 2.57 times more likely to recover from PTSD during the study than those who were not using cannabis. Furthermore, a 2016 study at the Minnesota Department of Health found that 58% of patients on other pain medications were able to reduce their use of those medications when they started taking medical cannabis. Of the patients taking opioid medications, more than 62% were able to reduce or eliminate opioid usage after 6 months.

According to the VA, nearly 20% of the 2.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will experience either PTSD or depression while more than 50% of older veterans receiving care at the VA are living with some form of chronic pain. Often times, people with PTSD experience depression, panic attacks, severe anxiety, or a substance use problem, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Tragically, the VA’s most recent annual report shows that nearly 18 veterans take their own life every day.

Organizations that support this legislation include: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), NORML, National Cannabis Roundtable, U.S. Pain Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Veteran’s Initiative 22, Arizona Dispensary Association, California Cannabis Industry Association, and Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association.

How Personal Tragedy Transformed North Carolina Man Into Medical Cannabis Activist

By Chris Suttle

Most of us can still recall the more lucid moments of our 21st birthday.  The ones that ended up splashing into a well of alcoholic memory loss like the cubes of ice in that final drink were likely captured on film by your friends. For me, I spent my 21st birthday alone, celebrating my graduation from a walker to a cane.  2 years prior I was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a distracted drivers worst fear. I was hit standing next to my bike by a runaway driver at 60 mph. I was thrown in the air a good 4 feet before somehow landing upright with a loud “snap” ringing in my ears. I turned my head just in time to see their taillights crossing the small bridge by the Channel Bass Restaurant on Hatteras Island, North Carolina.

I screamed at the few passing cars still on the road after 9 pm in a town of only 1200 people.  I think it was something along the lines of “I’ve been hit!  Why are you not stopping?!”  I managed to focus my now crimson tainted vision on the stop sign in front of the famous Hatterasman Drive In and started repeating “left foot, right foot, left foot right foot,” until I reached the hood of a strangers car. I cried out as loudly as I could “Please call my Dad” before I blacked out.

I awoke to a flood of flashing lights and familiar faces flat on my back covered in wool blankets. A team of volunteer firemen began to lift me just enough to slide a wooden bodyboard under me until the EMT’s arrived with a gurney. I remember hearing the voice of our local Methodist Minister praying for me to have safe and swift passage to the closet hospital. It was, in retrospect a pretty important prayer at that moment since the closest true medical facility was over 2 ½ hours away in Chesapeake VA.

The last thing I remember clearly was the excruciating pain of being strapped to a gurney in an ambulance as it went as quickly as possible over the numerous railroad tracks that exist between Hatteras Village and Chesapeake General. If you’re wondering, in 1998 that number was four, two of which are less than a few feet apart. I managed to stay conscious for 1 ½ of them.

The total damage?  Three hairline fractures in my spine, all inoperable due to my age and the continuing formation of my growth plates, severed hip muscle on the right side, massive bruising to the abdominal wall resulting in numerous tears and a ringing in my head that will stop the same day my heart does.

My treatment options were limited due to the youthful age of my skeletal structure and I was discharged after two weeks with a list of medications and a lot of couch time in my future. One of the main medications is our old friend OxyContin. I took one, one single pill and 6 hours later I threw the rest of them away. It wasn’t due to a lack of effectiveness, but said potency brought me to the realization that the false euphoria I felt would be my chasing the dragon for the remainder of my adult life if I ever took a second pill.

So now I do, what?  Stay in constant pain the remainder of my recovery along with the life long pain a massive trauma can possibly leave, or disassociate from reality by means of more pills until my body succumbs to kidney failure at, if I’m lucky, 35.  Not great choices so I went with plan B: weed.

How I came to know of the medicinal properties of cannabis prior to the legal age of 21 will have to remain one of those rum induced campfire stories I tell my closest compatriots so let’s just say I had an associate degree in growing your own weed around the same time I enrolled in an associate degree at Chowan University in 1996. The knowledge I gained allowed me to treat my pain during the most crucial times of my recovery which allowed my body to stay still and do what it needed to do best at that time, rest.

It was a lot of counting flowers on the wall moments, the kind that toy at your sanity like a cat would a feather toy. I pulled through, somewhat, recovering mostly from the majority of my injuries except for one small hairline fracture at the base of my spine.

I’ll fast forward for you and say the shelf life on that fracture should have read “expires” 2004 because that’s when my back broke and took a good majority of the nerves near the base of my spine with it. 3 disk had to be removed total and something called lumber displacement surgery had to be performed for me to regain feeling in about 60% of my body.

What’s the point of this long-winded origin story and what does it have to do with medicinal cannabis?  Cannabis is the only thing I used for pain management during the entire length of my recovery, and to this day it’s my preferred method of dealing with degenerative osteoarthritis.

Current laws in NC define me as I a criminal for choosing to manage my chronic pain with cannabis.  And while the outlaw life is fun when you’re 26, not so much at 44. There have been times where due to lack of supply or the inability to grow my own, I have had to fall back on prescription pain management options excluding OxyContin.

That is why the fight for cannabis legalization is so important to me. That is why I work 18 hour shifts, six days a week. When I’m not at the NCGA I’m delivering for Postmates, or doing my stupid human trick of breathing fire in front of strangers for money. All of my work as a citizen advocate for the legalization of medicinal and recreational cannabis in NC is pro Bono. So my car is my office and I call to set appointments with Senators and Representatives in between Postmates deliveries and spend every Tuesday and Thursday for the remainder of my foreseeable future in the halls of the Legislative offices. Here’s the general tone of that brick and mortar building I know lovingly call a second home.

A recent poll released by Elon University shows that 68% of NC is in favor of cannabis legalization.  Despite this and numerous other polls, medical research and scientific data showing the numerous benefits to both the people and the economy of NC, the NCGA continues to be a challenging place to find allies, especially in the House.

There is hope, regardless of the ancient “Reefer Madness” inspired mentality that still exists within the walls of the NCGA. With each new citizen advocate that signs up for the free training at NCNORML.org the winds of change grow, their speed increasing past Gail force winds to a full-blown hurricane. Every day another strip of siding is blown off the side of the NCGA building as NC citizen advocates flood the hallways of the Legislative offices armed with the latest scientific and medical research available to educate and hopefully change the hearts and minds of the NC Legislature.

NC is a “Dillon’s Rule” State. The definition of “Dillon’s Rule” is longer and more boring than I would wish the reader to suffer through so to keep it short and simple; no citizen can introduce a bill to the NCGA through petition or citizen initiative, only the elected individuals that make up the NCGA can.

That’s where the citizen advocacy program comes in. Thanks to the mentorship of an experienced retired lobbyist and the amazing support of the other pro Bono volunteers at NC NORML, they have created a free training program on how to become an effective advocate for cannabis legalization that is available to any and all North Carolinians.  Orientation dates for the program can be found on the website or by following @NC_NORML on Twitter.

Is it effective?  Let’s look at one of the most historic days in the NCGA history which occurred on April 7th of this year. 7 different bills regarding medicinal cannabis and even full legalization for NC were filed. A bill for the legalization of medicinal cannabis has appeared in some form or fashion for the past five years, but never seven in the same day.  Two more were introduced on April 12th as well bringing the total to 9 bills for the 2021 legislative session

The people have spoken before, but now their voice is amplified by the recent increase in citizen advocacy in our state. There’s a hurricane coming NC, and it’s eye is headed directly for the NCGA. It’s time to help or move to higher ground because the flood waters will continue to rise and we will never stop until North Carolinians are free to pursue the same civil liberties as other citizens of this great nation in regards to cannabis use. Hold fast NC, change is coming and it has a name, SB Bill 711, The NC Compassionate Care Act.

Every journey begins with a momentous first step or, in this case the first swirls of a cold front that causes concern amongst meteorologists.  Keep an eye on that front and before 2021 is over that calm felt in the air after a hurricane passes, familiar to any coastal residents in NC, could be made even calmer with the help of some legal medicinal cannabis for the many people being forced to suffer in the dark. 2021 may seem ambitious, but so was my desire to walk again in my doctor’s eyes.

Not only did I walk again, but I continued a passion I had for stage combat and even performed as Blackbeard in an internationally known pirate sword fighting comedy show in my hometown, twice. I was featured in a Tarheel Travelers episode on WRAL as Blackbeard in the Ocracoke Pirate Jamboree festival and it’s still on their website at www.wral.com if any of you readers need a visual.

Will medicinal legalization happen in 2021 for NC?  Nothing says it can’t but a more realistic date is 2023. Regardless of when it does happen, the continued work of citizen advocates will be crucial to the future of cannabis in NC.

Ohio Board of Pharmacy Publishes Updated Patient & Caregiver Numbers For January 2021

OHIO:  The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy today published updated patient & caregiver numbers for January 2021. These numbers include:

  • 230,037 Recommendations
  • 168,571 Registered patients
    • 11,328 Patients with Veteran Status
    • 12,168 Patients with Indigent Status
    • 888 Patients with a Terminal Diagnosis
  • 148,861 Unique patients who purchased medical marijuana (as reported to OARRS by licensed dispensaries)
  • 19,199 Registered CaregiversFor the full list of program numbers, please visit the Program Update page.



Maine Regulators Update Medical Marijuana Rules

MAINE:  The Office of Marijuana Policy today released preliminary draft rules meant to bring the state’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program regulations into congruence with state law. Administrative rulemaking is a standard process within government and, in this case, necessitated due to significant changes that have been made to state law since rules were last revised in February 2018, pre-dating the creation of OMP.

In addition to being thematically reorganized to better reflect the structure of Maine’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program, one of the most notable changes included in the draft is the introduction of a process by which medical marijuana establishments are regulated at the local level prior to state review, as is currently mandated by law. Additionally, the draft rules include provisions for inventory tracking to enhance accountability and transparency and delineate packaging and labeling requirements that prioritize patient protections.

“Along with being more user-friendly, these draft rules are meant to address changes to state law over the last two years. This draft framework will further ensure our regulatory priorities of safety, accountability, and transparency,” said OMP Director Erik Gundersen. “As relationships with local communities, industry, and other stakeholders are at the heart of all we do, we look forward to connecting with the public throughout the rule-making process.”

Current plans call for OMP to engage in both an informal and formal public comment period as it considers and develops revisions to the revamped medical rule. This approach is modeled after OMP’s development of the adult use program’s rules, an experience which allowed the Office to receive critical feedback and, ultimately, propose a better rule when beginning the formal rulemaking process defined by the Maine Administrative Procedures Act.

A copy of the preliminary draft rules is currently available for review on the OMP website: https://www.maine.gov/dafs/omp/medical-use/rules-statutes/rulemaking/draft-rules. Parties interested in providing feedback in response to the preliminary draft rules may do so through the following page: https://www.maine.gov/dafs/omp/medical-use/rules-statutes/rulemaking/feedback.

In line with the state’s standard rule-making process, the preliminary draft will transition into a proposed rule over the coming weeks, and OMP will begin the public hearing and public comment phase required by statute. A final draft of the proposed rule will be provided at least 20 days prior to the date of a scheduled public hearing. Following the public hearing, at least 10 days of written public comment will be allowed.

Once the public comment period concludes, OMP will review and consider all feedback received, make any appropriate revisions to the proposed rule, and complete final adoption.

Ohio Board Of Pharmacy Updated Patient & Caregiver Numbers For December 2020

OHIO:  The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy today published updated patient & caregiver numbers for December 2020. These numbers include:

  • 214,916 Recommendations
  • 160,228 Registered patients
    • 10,938 Patients with Veteran Status
    • 11,591 Patients with Indigent Status
    • 861 Patients with a Terminal Diagnosis
  • 139,458 Unique patients who purchased medical marijuana (as reported to OARRS by licensed dispensaries)
  • 18,211 Registered CaregiversFor the full list of program numbers, please visit the Program Update page.

Health Canada Releases New Data On Cannabis Use In Canada

CANADA:  Health Canada published the results of its 2020 Canadian Cannabis Survey. Results of the survey provide a snapshot of Canadians’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards cannabis and its use. Data were collected from April 30 to June 22, 2020.

The survey results will help to evaluate the impact of the Cannabis Act and inform policy and program development, and public education and awareness activities. This important research complements data collected through Health Canada’s national drug surveillance surveys—the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey and the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey.

Key findings show that:

  • More than half of those who use cannabis, report using it three days a month or less. 54% reported using cannabis three days per month or less, while 18% reported daily cannabis use. Responses were unchanged from 2019.
  • More than half of those who use cannabis choose to obtain it through a legal source. 41% reported legal storefront as their usual source, an increase from 24% in 2019, whereas 13% reported obtaining cannabis from a legal online source.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has had some impacts on cannabis use. People who used cannabis in the past 12 months were asked if their cannabis use had changed due the pandemic—56% reported using the same amount, while 22% reported using more and 22% reported using less.
  • Smoking remains the most common method of consuming cannabis, but it has declined while eating cannabis products has increased since 2019.
  • Almost 8 in 10 Canadians feel they have access to trustworthy information to make informed decisions about their cannabis use. An increase from 71% in 2019 to 77% in 2020. Information about the health risks associated with cannabis use is widely available and reaching Canadians.
  • Driving after cannabis use has decreased among those who reported past 12-month cannabis use, as compared to 2019 results. 22% of those who use cannabis drove within two hours of smoking or vapourizing cannabis in their lifetime and 13% reported driving within four hours of orally ingesting cannabis in their lifetime.
  • The federal government will continue to conduct research and share the results with Canadians, public health officials, provinces and territories, and other stakeholders.