State Medical Marijuana Law Offers Challenges To Summit County

Feb 8, 2019

Credit Michael Fischer

The state legislature’s Medical marijuana law is leaving Summit County with a number of challenges and questions, according to council member Kim Carson.

Under the new law, each health district in the state has to provide at least one marijuana dispensary. But that obligation could be met if a private entity came in. We asked Carson if the county is going to invest its own time and money at this point on a facility.

“The language isn’t specific enough yet for us to know.” Carson explained, “We know that we have the option to opt-out, but if we opt-out before knowing that there’s going to be a private dispensary in the county, we would be risking not having the medical marijuana available to our constituents that want it and need it. We’re waiting for more information. It’s pretty frustrating.”

There are also questions about funding, since the state bill doesn’t provide money to local governments.

“There is no guarantee.” Carson said, “75% of our funding in our health department comes from federal grants. Through Medicaid and a number of different programs. We are concerned that those funds could be at risk since cannabis is still a schedule one drug.”

The county council heard in a staff report about the potential cost to set up a dispensary.

“For the initial setup it would be in that $100-150,000 range and it would depend on where we decide to set it up.” Carson continued, “There’s training that’s involved, security and then ongoing costs could be anywhere between $65,000 to $100,000 a year.”

They also need more information to decide where to locate a facility. Carson said some council members want to place it by a public transit line, but there are several factors to consider.

“If you have other staff available you have to have at least one person trained, but if that person’s out sick you still have to provide the service, so you need at least one backup.” Carson explained, “That might be more readily available if we had it at the Quinn’s Junction facility. They won’t be doing any measuring or actual filing of prescriptions at the health department site wherever it is located. There’s a central-fill pharmacy that the state will run and so all of the product will come into them. They will fill prescriptions from there. They handle all of the money. There’s a designated delivery point where the patient will pick that up. It’ll then be shipped, and it has to be picked up within 24-48 hours or it’s sent back to the central-fill pharmacy. So, there won’t be a lot of products at any one time in the health department building.”