ATHENS, Ohio – A second medical marijuana dispensary has set its sights on Athens.
In May 2022, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy issued a provisional dispensary license to Big Perm’s LLC, set to operate at 544 Richland Avenue.
The license was awarded within the Southeast-6 medical marijuana dispensary district, which consists of Athens, Meigs and Vinton counties. The building is owned by Demetrios Prokos, according to Athens County Auditor records.
Big Perm’s application to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy lists Sara Preslar and Debbie Hunter as “key prospective employees,” with Preslar as the primary contact. Preslar and Hunter, both of Arizona, are also listed in an application for Big Perm’s other location in Jeffersonville, Ohio.
Preslar’s website states that she is a cannabis consultant, licensed attorney and the former mayor of Flagstaff, Arizona. Hunter is the co-founder of an Arizona-based dispensary business. Preslar could not be reached for comment in time for publication.
Big Perm’s will join Harvest of Ohio, at 711 W. Union St., in offering medical marijuana products in Athens County. This will make Athens the only county in southeast Ohio with two dispensaries and bring the number of dispensaries serving the region to five, including ones located in Jackson, Marietta and Logan.
Nearly half of the region’s population has no local dispensary; residents in those counties must travel up to 45 miles one way to reach a dispensary. The first few years of the program resulted in complaints from some cardholders that dispensaries were too spaced out for many rural patients, according to surveys taken by Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.
The Ohio legislature legalized medical marijuana in 2016. Individuals must complete a one-time registration as a medical marijuana patient and receive an annual recommendation from a physician to purchase medical marijuana products.
Medical marijuana may be recommended only by certified physicians. Of the 660 certified physicians statewide, only 14 are located in southeast Ohio, according to the State Medical Board, which issues physician certifications for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.
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Athens County has four program-certified physicians: three in Athens and one in Nelsonville. Like dispensaries, some counties entirely lack certified physicians. However, certified physicians can also be accessed via telehealth.
To be eligible for the program, patients must have one or more qualifying conditions, which include specific conditions such as AIDS, cancer and fibromyalgia as well as “pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable.”
Arthritis, chronic migraine, degenerative disc disease, lupus and complex regional pain syndrome all fall under “pain.”
According to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which oversees dispensaries and patient registration, as of February 166,643 Ohioans have both an active registration and an active recommendation for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.
Since the program began in 2019, the state has seen over 346,000 medical marijuana patients more than 686,000 recommendations.
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