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Hundreds line up to buy medical marijuana in Sandusky

By Andy Ouriel • Jan 17, 2019 at 7:00 PM

SANDUSKY — They began to stand outside at 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

About five hours later, just before The Forest Sandusky debuted, a line filled with excited cannabis supporters snaked around the company’s dark blue-shaded building at 1651 Tiffin Ave. (U.S. 6) across from Dollar General.

Plain and simple: On the first day possible, many eager Ohioans took advantage of a long-awaited opportunity to legally purchase medical marijuana.

“When you have a historic moment like this, people want to be a part of it,” company CEO Erik Vaughan said.

Due to several reasons, Wednesday marked the earliest any state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary could open. Along with Sandusky, similar operations in Wintersville, by the Pennsylvania border, and Canton also debuted. All told, 56 companies received licenses to operate a dispensary in Ohio, though most, for various reasons, haven’t opened yet.

Several hundred people throughout the day ended up entering Sandusky’s only cannabis facility.

Patients, who previously received certified recommendations from qualified physicians, consulted with Forest professionals to determine which available flower-based products could best treat their ailments. The business will eventually sell other forms of cannabis, such as in vapors, edibles and oils. In Ohio, it remains illegal for people to smoke marijuana.

Patients with one of 21 pre-existing medical conditions — including ALS, Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s and HIV — can receive a recommendation to buy medical marijuana at any Ohio dispensary, even in Sandusky.

Cleveland Heights resident Ynez Henningsen can lay claim as The Forest Sandusky’s first customer. The military veteran also works as the company’s special projects manager, troubleshooting issues and compiling data for research purposes.

“As an employee, we wanted to make sure that every customer that came after me was having the best experience possible,” Henningsen said. “We wanted to do a test run.”

Henningsen suffers from multiple sclerosis, which falls under one of those 21 pre-existing conditions.

“There is a substantial amount of anecdotal evidence and a limited amount of empirical research that suggests cannabis is a good treatment for multiple sclerosis,” Henningsen said.

Whether for multiple sclerosis or another condition, people could finally medicate with a plant-based product rather than an addictive opiate, Vaughan said.

“We have enough data and sample size to see that there is a measurable drop in the doses of addicted opiates that are prescribed in states that have medical marijuana,” Vaughan said. “You are seeing not only a drop in doses but a drop in deaths in those states.”

Vaughan then coined Wednesday as a monumental moment for medical marijuana in Ohio.

“It’s hard to contain the excitement,” he said. “It’s been just such an amazingly positive response, and it’s so fun to be a part of.”

Based on the turnout, he also characterized the day as a huge success.

“We are thrilled to be part of this historic moment and the first sale of medical cannabis in Ohio.”

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