Just when things look like they’re moving forward for medical marijuana programs, it seems that something comes up that could put progress to a halt. In this case, it’s the testing requirements that Ohio has put in place for their new medical marijuana program. Rather than allowing private labs to test the medicine, they would rather see it tested by independent researchers out of state universities for at least the first year. The problem with that? Truthfully there are several issues with that plan, but the biggest one is most universities rely on federal grants for funding and most have avoided stepping into the marijuana industry for fear of losing those necessary funds.
On top of the general weariness of working with a federally banned substance, there is also the monetary cost of getting started – which, as of right now, is expected to be around $20,000 in application and operating fees just for a university to get started. In addition to that, it is estimated that the equipment (depending on what the school may already have available) could cost around $1 million. All in all, it would certainly be a costly venture for universities to test medical marijuana for only about a year before private labs could open up and take over.
“There are too many unknowns to rely exclusively on learning institutions,” Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in the report. “Private labs are in better positions to respond.”
Another concern for activists is that the schools won’t participate at all, or they will not be able to keep up with the amount of medical cannabis coming through their doors. Either way, this would delay access of the medicine for patients who have been waiting for long enough already. Another potential problem brought up was whether or not schools would have the means to ensure the medical marijuana was stored in a secure enough way to avoid potential theft on school campuses.
“I think a higher education institution will step up,” Rep. Kirk Schuring said. “If it becomes a problem, we’ll correct it, but I don’t think it will.”
Lawmakers, of course, are sure that these things will work themselves out and that a school will come forward prepared to take on this responsibility. As of right now, the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, Cleveland State University and Kent State University have all stated that they have no interest in participating in the medical marijuana industry. And although there are many more schools who have not responded, there is no guarantee that any will.
However, for the most part Ohio’s lawmakers have been receptive to the comments of activists and patients and they have at least said that if necessary they will change their course of action to ensure patients do not continue to go without the medicine they need. If any university were to come forward with the funding for the application and operating fees, as well as the funding to set up laboratory testing, then hopefully they are prepared and able to keep up with the amount of medical cannabis to be produced by the state over the next year or so.