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Patients, caregivers say Ohio medical marijuana prices too high, and acquiring it compounded by coronavirus

Last week, the price for medical marijuana plant material averaged $284 an ounce in Ohio. (AP File Photo) AP File Photo

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A majority of patients and caregivers in the Ohio medical marijuana program – 58.4% — are dissatisfied with product prices, according to a recent survey.

The results of the survey, which the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program sent to all registered patients and caregivers this fall, aren’t surprising. Prices are a much talked-about topic in online forums, with many people complaining about the expense.

Compounding the cost for patients was a springtime rush on dispensaries, in which there were long lines and increases in prices. This is generally attributed to the coronavirus and people stocking up, as they did with bottled water and toilet paper.

The state received responses from 11,936 registered patients and caregivers, just over 10% of the total, and found 59.9% said they are paying up to $299 a month on medical marijuana.

Marijuana pricing

Ohio medical marijuana costs vary by product. For instance, processed products such as edibles can cost more by weight than plant material, which also varies in price, depending on strain and other properties.

Last week, plant material averaged $284.10 an ounce in the state.

This is down from Jan. 19, 2019, the week the first dispensaries opened, when it averaged $428 an ounce.

Prices in those first months of sales wildly fluctuated but had started declining in the second half of 2019, as cultivators produced more marijuana and more dispensaries opened to better meet patient demand. On Jan. 18 – when the first dispensaries had been open a year — the average price had dropped to $303.40 an ounce.

The first three Ohio coronavirus cases were announced March 9. By March 15, bars and restaurants were closed, except for pickup and delivery. Between March 21 and March 28, the average price of marijuana plant material increased from $292 an ounce to $300.

Patient response

Several people who took the state’s survey complained in written comments about the prices.

“Why are these products so expensive?” one responder asked. “Does Ohio realize that those prescribed mmj (medical marijuana) often deal with symptoms that make working fulltime difficult?”

Patients weren’t identified in the comments.

“The dispensaries are severely overpriced,” another said, claiming they can buy medical-grade marijuana off the street for a better price.

“The pricing in Ohio is UNREASONABLE! I would at least like a justification,” another wrote.

Other states

In Michigan, an ounce of medical marijuana plant material costs $263.89, according to a September report that provides the most recent pricing information.

In Illinois, plant material in October averaged $378 an ounce.

“We’re kind of right there in the middle between Michigan and Illinois,” said Greg McIlvaine of the Ohio Department of Commerce, one of three state agencies involved in marijuana regulation. “So we would hope to expect as our market matures, and we continue to get cultivators online and … products, that our prices will start to decline even further from about the $300 per ounce to something closer to $265 per ounce, as in Michigan.”

Curbside pickup

As lines formed at dispensaries in midst of the pandemic, members of the industry worked with state regulators to begin a dispensary curbside delivery program, aimed at reducing coronavirus exposure, said Matt Close, executive director of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association.

The temporary measure allows dispensaries to conduct business with patients and caregivers outside dispensaries – such as delivering product to a person in the parking lot, at the front of the dispensary or at a walk-up or drive-through window.

“I think we feel more comfortable with the prices,” Close said. “They’ve come down 30 some odd percent (since January 2019). We’re competitive with other states.”

Patients, caregivers say Ohio medical marijuana prices too high, and acquiring it compounded by coronavirus Last week, the price for medical marijuana plant material averaged $284 an ounce in