The patient advocate on Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, Bob Bridges, has been removed and he believed his ouster is due to outspoken beliefs, according to a WOSU report. Bridges was removed by House Speaker Larry Householder and said he received an email about the move “randomly out of the blue.”
Bridges told WOSU that he “ruffled feathers” on the 16-person committee asking about whether the medical cannabis program would launch on time. In public, committee members said the program was on schedule; however, the state missed the Sept. 2018 deadline and dispensaries didn’t start to open until January 2019.
Bridges, who has helped write the state’s failed cannabis legalization bills, said many people on the committee “still believe in the D.A.R.E. mentality that marijuana is bad.”
“A lot of my focus was on patient protections. Like if a patient goes to the hospital and they have their medication on them, is their medication going to be taken away by law enforcement? That’s happened here in Ohio.” – Bridges, to WOSU
Householder said that Bridges’ removal stemmed from a belief that “it was time to go in another direction” and indicated there would be another appointment to fill the vacancy “in the near future.”
“We believe constructive, collaborative engagement is important on any board,” he said in a statement to WOSU.
A June report by the Alliance Review found that only about half of the state’s registered medical cannabis patients have purchased products from the state-approved dispensaries. Many patients said the high costs were keeping them out and forcing them to buy cannabis on the illicit market or go to Michigan whose program allows reciprocity. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy said that the state had sold $5.8 million worth of cannabis from January to June, equaling more than 750 pounds of flower. As of June, 17 of the 29 licensed cultivators were operational but just two of the 39 producers have started making products.