Sideways drawing of a marijuana leaf as if it's blowing in the wind

I fought for over 8 years for medical cannabis legalization for Ohio's patients so when it became a reality in 2016, I wanted to take what I learned in my years of patient advocacy and participate in Ohio's budding new green industry. So I was super excited when, in January of this year, I was hired by Green Thumb Industries as their Patient and Community Outreach Manager. I felt this role gave me a great opportunity to continue my work helping patients discover a better and more natural way to treat their ailments and live healthier lives.

But my excitement soon faded when I realized just how oppressive the Ohio Board of Pharmacy was going to be in their oversight and enforcement of this industry. Everything, and I mean everything, we wanted to do to engage the public and the patient community had to be fully detailed in a report to the State inspector at least two weeks prior to any given event and they had the final say in what we could and, more importantly, couldn't say or do.

For example; we can't do ads on TV, radio, the internet or on billboards. We were prohibited from handing out fliers or post events on bulletin boards. We were even prohibited from posting anything on our personal social media pages like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We opened our Rise Dispensaries in Toledo and Lorain and in each of those cases, we were relying on the news media to get the word out and it showed. With Lorain being a smaller media market, our opening day was nearly a ghost town. We even had patients who lived around the corner not knowing we were even open, because many folks get their news via social media.

One of the most egregious dictates came after we had paid for road signs for these dispensaries. We went to great expense to have two signs fabricated and mounted and all they said was "Rise"; no pot leaf, nothing about marijuana, just the dispensary brand name. Again they told us we were not allowed to have road signs and we were forced to remove them. If you look down the West Sylvania Ave. in Toledo and Cooper Foster Park Road in Lorain, you can see every other business has a road sign but us. This is Soviet-style censorship which has nothing to do with protecting kids from getting the wrong impression about this medicine.

And this censorship even takes place inside the dispensary. We can't have images of our medicine in the art on our walls. Our Patient Care Specialists can't even say a tincture drop is supposed to be applied 'sublingually' which has led to patient confusion.

I'm fully convinced the Board of Pharmacy designed this program to be as restrictive as possible so as to limit our ability to attract patients out of the traditional pharmaceutical merry-go-round and show them a better way of living. They knew full well that, if we were given a level playing field, we'd have endangered the cash cow known as Big Pharma, so they set about to make Ohio a medical marijuana state in name only. All of these undue burdens of excessive security requirements and having pharmacists at every dispensary and the excessive fees to the state for applications and licensing ensures the products supplied will be more expensive than the black market supply which ensures the illicit market is not going away anytime soon.

Many qualifying patients have not bothered to get signed up and many who have are not even using their patient cards in Ohio, opting to use them in Michigan where product is more affordable. This is an outrage and every Ohioan who agrees that medical marijuana is a right that desperately ill patients should be able to enjoy should contact their representatives and demand immediate reforms to this police-state program.

I was so disgusted with my inability to be able to fully engage the patient community that I recently quit my job and I'm returning to patient advocacy where I can write an editorial like this without the Board of Pharmacy being able to say anything about it. What they are doing violates our Freedom of Speech and is, in my view, tortious interference of commerce that is hurting the patient community and those who wish to serve them.

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