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Why Ohio’s medical marijuana prices are so hard to figure

The Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center caused some consternation last month when it released the results of a survey that, among other things, estimated the average price of medical marijuana in Ohio at more than $18 per gram.

The Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association disputed their findings, claiming an average price under $11 per gram.

While the policy center’s figures weren’t wrong, they were misleading because most patients buy unprocessed flower, which is significantly cheaper than $18 per gram, said Jana Hrdinova, the center’s administrative director.

The group revised its figures after acquiring more information from the Ohio Department of Commerce, which tracks medicinal marijuana sales.

This might seem like a trivial disagreement, but the back and forth represents an acute example of just how difficult it can be to calculate the prices patients pay at Ohio’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

Patients consistently list cost as one of the biggest barriers to acquiring medicinal cannabis in the Buckeye State. The requisite doctor’s recommendation alone costs as much as $200, and knowing dispensary prices ahead of time helps patients decide if it’s worth it, Hrdinova said.

“Should you go through the expense of getting a recommendation and then realize you can’t afford it?” she said.

But gauging cost isn’t as simple as comparing dispensary menus.

“Those menus don’t reflect indigent discounts, veteran discounts, or individual sales,” said Caroline Henry, head of government relations for the medical marijuana company Buckeye Relief.

Between 10 to 20 % of Ohio’s medical marijuana dispensaries are running specials or promotions at any given time, she said.

And some products require fewer doses or last longer with a single dose, Hrdinova said.

When the drug policy center averaged the total sales in dollar figures and the total grams of marijuana sold, it lumped manufactured products like edibles and vaping oil together with unprocessed flower, which threw off the average, Hrdinova said.

“Flower is the majority of sales in the (Ohio) market,” said Buckeye Relief CEO Andy Rayburn. Flower, he said, costs significantly less than $18 per gram.

After the Medical Cannabis Industry Association raised concerns about the study in an email sent to news organizations, the policy center asked the commerce department for more detailed information.

The policy center then released new figures.

The price of flower, the center found, is more in line with the industry association’s estimate of less than $11 per gram. The prices of manufactured products, which a minority of patients prefer, is more than $46 per gram.

Marijuana capsules and gummies, for example, cost between $40 and $55 at the Herbology dispensary in Newark, according to an online menu.

Hrdinova wondered why the commerce department doesn’t include more detailed information on its website to better guide patients.

The commerce department is considering doing just that, said Jennifer Jarrell, the agency’s deputy chief communications officer.

“But from a patient perspective, we caution against solely relying on that information,” she said. “The program data provides averages for the entire state, and that wouldn’t necessarily be reflective of patient options at their nearest dispensary.”

State law requires dispensaries to publish their prices, Jarrell added.

Patients have told the Dispatch that they often drive to marijuana dispensaries in Michigan to buy cheaper products.

Whether or not the average prices in that state up north are less than Ohio’s, however, remains an open question.

The cannabis industry association found average prices in Michigan and Illinois, the two closest states with medical marijuana programs, roughly in line with those of Ohio. Illinois averages just under $14 per gram of unprocessed, and Michigan averages just over $10 per gram.

Ohio’s prices for unprocessed flower have fallen 38% since the first dispensary opened in January 2019, Rayburn said.

But Hrdinova said every state calculates prices differently, making comparisons troublesome.

“It’s difficult to know if you are comparing the same thing state to state,” she said.

Henry said the publicly available data at least makes it possible to calculate the price of unprocessed flower.

“(Price estimates) are typically based on the price of flower because the price of processed products covers a wide range of products,” she said.

Cannabis patients consistently list cost as one of the biggest barriers. Discounts, promotions, variety and dosages complicate the cost calculations.

Ohio medical marijuana prices are still high but going down as market grows

Ohio’s seed to sale process for producing medical marijuana. Cincinnati Enquirer

Editor’s note: This story was updated June 18 with the correct per-ounce average for marijuana sales during the first week of June. The initial version of this story included inaccurate information provided by the Ohio Department of Commerce.

COLUMBUS – As sales of medical marijuana in Ohio approach $10 million, the average price for bud is going down.

Ohio dispensaries sold $9.68 million of medical marijuana between Jan. 16, when sales began at four dispensaries, and June 8, when 18 dispensaries had opened. That includes 1,181 pounds of dried flower and 12,152 units of tinctures, vaping oils and edibles.

Prices have been steep as the program gets up and running. For the first two months of sales, prices averaged $471.86 per ounce, according to an Enquirer analysis of Department of Commerce data.

Last week, the average sale price was down to $442.16 an ounce. That’s less than the average price reported in March for Pennsylvania, where sales started last year, but more than in Illinois and Michigan, which averaged $207.63 per ounce during a six-month period ending in March.

But don’t expect prices to drop to Michigan levels any time soon.

Brian Wingfield, owner of Ohio Cannabis Company dispensary in Coshocton, said some growers have recently set lower prices on introductory products or lower-THC strains they plan to discontinue growing.

Wingfield expects flower prices to go down a little bit more but not too much because growers will need to start selling more plant material for marijuana-infused products as more processors come online. Meanwhile, Wingfield said, Standard Wellness plans to roll out its infused gummy candy at $15 less than its competitor.

The average price in Michigan was $207.63 per ounce during the time between October and March.

Ohio requires dried marijuana flower be sold in one-tenth ounce amounts. Prices range between $30 and $52 per one-tenth, according to an Enquirer review of menus from four dispensaries around the state.

Prices are coming down in Ohio's new medical marijuana market but they're still too high for many patients.