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Yuko Says Ohio's Missed Marijuana Deadline is Costing Patients Time They Don't Have

photo of Kenny Yuko
Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko says the delay is unfair to ill Ohioans who have waited two years since medical marijuana was legalized.

The state’s medical marijuana program is not going to be ready for patients on the projected start date on Sept. 8th and there’s no clear idea on when it will begin.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko has been pushing for medical marijuana for years. He says officials from the state agency that oversees the medical marijuana program have told him none of the cultivators licensed by the state are growing marijuana right now and only one is close to starting the process.

“To say I was angry is an understatement," he said.

Growers weren't ready
TheOhio Department of Commerce, which is one of three state agencies overseeing the medical marijuana program, says there’s no way the Sept. deadline can be met. Spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski says it was expected that companies that got licenses to grow marijuana would be ready to start growing it in May.

“We thought we were going to have three. One inspection occurred. No certificates of operation have been issued at this time,” she said.

Gostomski says the company that was inspected didn’t pass, so that business is making the changes prescribed by inspectors.

A tight timeframe

'I can only hope and pray that someone wakes up and says, OK, listen, what can we do to expedite this as quickly as possible and make this right?"

Yuko says he is furious because patients who want medical marijuana were counting on getting it in September. And now he says veterans suffering from PTSD, adults battling cancer and children experiencing massive seizures will have to wait with time they don’t have.

“To hold a child, Jo, to hold them in your arms. To have them have that seizure in your arms. To see the mom and dad living in fear, day in and day out, knowing that next seizure could cause brain damage or death, we had to do better. We should have done better. But we didn’t do better.

"And now, I can only hope and pray that someone wakes up and says, 'OK, listen, what can we do to expedite this as quickly as possible and make this right?'”

Not even the promised partial start up
The Department of Commerce had said earlier this year that the medical marijuana program would still be operational on Sept. 8, but only partially – not all growers, processors and dispensaries would be operating at full strength. For her part, Gostomski says she can’t give a certain start date for the program.

“We do have two level 2’s that have expressed interest for their inspections in June and then we have seven more in July, five of which are our large cultivators. So we have nine inspections coming up in the coming weeks and if they receive their certificates of operations, all nine of those businesses can start cultivating their products and that’s when we can start to see products on the shelves in dispensaries in Ohio,” she said.

Two years was not enough
But Yuko says those who want medical marijuana already have waited for two years since lawmakers passed the law that created the program. And he says every day that goes on is one too many for the ill Ohioans who need medical marijuana now.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.