WAVERLY — Last month, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy issued provisional medical marijuana dispensary licenses to 70 prospective operations in the state.
Among the list was Southern Ohio Botanicals, who is now believed to be the first medical marijuana dispensary in Pike County.
In a Tuesday interview with The News Watchman, Bryan Roberts said he and his fellow co-owners- Josh Smith and Arthur Robbins- view their venture as a way to combat an epidemic that has ravaged southern Ohio.
“We just want to have the biggest impact in our local community to help curb the opiate addiction,” he said, the three all local to the county. “We’ve all been touched by opiates in this area, in one facet or another, so that’s why we focused on this area.”
The business is going to set up shop just 2.5 miles north of town on U.S. 23 and will house a 5,400-square foot building. Roberts said they hope to employ 15 to 20 workers at the start.
The picture for its overall economic impact will not be fully known until Southern Ohio Botanicals opens it doors. Still, Roberts said the early projection is the operation to bring in $5 to $10 million per year.
The dispensary’s promotion of medical cannabis, as far as helping with opioid addiction, comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the trial use of an investigational new drug called Nantheia ATL5 for opiate addiction.
According to Forbes, the drug is an oral product which contains 100 mg of CBD per capsule and would be used in the trial conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles. Full approval for cannabis use with opioid use disorder treatment, however, is lacking from the FDA “due to a lack of rigorous research,” according to the Recovery Research Institute.
Opioids have been particularly damaging to Pike County and Ohio in recent years. According to the Ohio Department of Health, 2020 was the most lethal year for unintentional drug overdose deaths.
ODH revealed this in its 2020 Drug Overdose Annual Report where 5,017 Ohioans died that year- a 25% increase from the prior year. Pike County had 21 deaths in 2020, a 50% increase from 2019.
Already, Roberts said the group has met with the Pike County Commissioners to give them a heads-up on their operation. He is also hoping to meet with local law enforcement in the near future.
Ohioans could see recreational marijuana in the near future, dependent on whether the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol can get enough signatures to place it in on the 2023 ballot.
What full legalization would means to Southern Ohio Botanicals is “to be determined,” said Roberts, as it depends on how the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy would proceed following an affirmative vote.
“I would anticipate there would be a place for current licensees to expand into the recreational market,” he said. “But as far as the actual laws right now, there’s nothing in place.”
As of April 30, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program reports that there are 271,029 registered patients in the state.