Storefront with number 656 above door

Opening Day, Terrasana. 656 Grandview Avenue, Columbus. From Mary Jane Borden’s photo collection of Ohio cannabis establishments. © 2019 Mary Jane Borden.

It was an event 20 years in the making. The culmination of nine legislative billseight signature certified ballot issues, 24 hours of taskforce testimony79 “disqualified” Level 1 cultivators, one miserable ballot box defeat, one badly missed deadline, and at least one Ohio legislator who slammed his door on an MS patient in a wheelchair. With the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries across Ohio, a new era began. Terrasana Labs laid claim to being first in Ohio’s state capitol.

The company appears to be Ohio grown, founded by Craig Maurer in January 2016. It’s corporate paperwork according to the Secretary of State’s website begins with registration of the Terrasana Labs tradename in June 2017. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy awardedcertificates of operation to its three locations – Columbus, Freemont and Garfield Heights – on March 21st. The Columbus operation opened five days later.

For the unschooled, dispensaries serve patients who have been diagnosed with one of 21 debilitating medical conditions and who have been registered with the Board of Pharmacy by a physician holding a certificate to recommend medical marijuana issued by the Medical Board of Ohio. These – and only these – patients may purchase plant material in its various forms.

That dispensaries sold 382 pounds worth $2.8 million by March 31 without jailtime was a big deal, as was Terrasana’s inaugural day. Its doors opened on March 26th at 10:00 am. Located at 656 Grandview Avenue near an on I-270 ramp, Terrasana’s ideal location claims plentiful parking.

Lines of patients began forming at the crack of dawn and by start time numbered in the 100s. The 30° outside temperature froze feet on the cold concrete sidewalk, while buyers trickled in two-by-two. Wait times ran two to three hours.

Shopping at a dispensary differs widely from the normal retail experience. It’s highly regimented and controlled. Getting inside Terrasana’s modern-looking, hyper-clean, well-lit building requires a government-issued ID and active medical marijuana registry card. Because the system is electronic, cards can be referenced from cell phones. This documentation is presented at least three times: when checking-in at a front desk, meeting with a patient consultant in the doctor’s-office-like waiting room and paying for purchases.

The waiting room could eat up more time before by an attendant (aka bud tender) enables access to a “show room” through a coded locked door. Inside, glass cases display goods, tubes offer smell tests and tenders personally assist patients. What is your condition? What effects are you looking for? What is your price range? They check choices on color-coded sheets that display various Sativa, Indica, hybrid (of the two) and CBD strains, along with associated THC/CBD percentages and prices. From those sheets, cashiers tabulate the final price, accept payment and place purchases – jars, pouches, bottles and even a vaporizer – in a plain brown bag.

Depending on the doctor, as much as a 90-day supply can be bought. (Only cannabis flower was available on opening day.) Quantities are apportioned based on a fairly generous “daily dose” of 2.83 grams. THC ranges from 13.5% to 23.6% and relatively high prices span $39-49 per dose.

Ohio Administrative Code 3796:6-3-09 dictates labeling, some of which is repeated verbatim on the packaging. A review of several packages found most compliant. Missing were terpenoid profiles, pesticide disclosures and pharmacy board statements. The bottom sticker on one bottle mismatched its two attached labels. When contacted about the discrepancy, Terrasana’s CEO Todd Yaross acknowledged inconsistencies in the opening day labels. The company, state regulators, cultivation partners and software partners, he said, collaborated to identify the cause and fix the problem.

The laboratory profiles add an element of confusion to the labels, for THC and CBD percentages are presented as “THCA” and “CBDA.”  Found in the raw plant, THCA is the non-psychoactive precursor of THC. Once heated, some, but not all THCA converts to THC. Consequently, THCA on packaging may display a higher value than THC on a menu. The same applies to CBDA and CBD. Very low CBD numbers result from strains bred to maximize THC. In so doing, the entourage effect – symbiosis among THC, CBD and other cannabinoids – can be lost.

Media reports maintain that an average of 250 patients a day visit Terrasana Columbus, a number that  exceeded expectations. Paraphrasing the saying, “Poor planning on your part should not constitute an emergency on our part.” Let’s hope this is true. Long lines in harsh weather are unduly hard on the patients that the company purports to serve and represented the #1 complaint on Google and other reviews. According to Yaross, this problem largely belonged to Opening Day snafus of new program 20 years in the making. Future visits should provide experiences that are well worth the wait.

Appears in Issue: