Wintersville home of Ohio’s first medical marijuana sale

FIRST TO PURCHASE — Joan Caleodis of Martins Ferry stands outside the CY-Plus medical marijuana dispensary in Wintersville Wednesday after becoming the first person in Ohio to purchase medical marijuana. -- Amy Neeley

WINTERSVILLE — Wednesday was a day many had been anticipating for a long time — the first legal medical marijuana sales in Ohio.

Lines formed outside of both the Winterville businesses — Ohio Valley Natural Relief, LLC. and CY-Plus — as early as 6 a.m., and people came from as far away as Cincinnati for the 9 a.m. opening of both shops. The dispensaries are two of only five in the state to be given the green light to open.

“Patients have really been waiting two years for this day,” Mike Petrella owner of OVNR said. “This is very exciting especially for us, a locally owned company.”

“We are very excited (to open),” said Jason Erkes, chief communications officer for Cresco Labs owners of CY-Plus. “This is a celebration, to see people get relief for the first time.”

The official first purchase in the state was by a Martins Ferry resident and former government employee, Joan Caleodis. She made her purchase at CY-Plus.

“It was a great day,” she said. “I was so honored to be chosen to go first. Patients are getting what they need. If I can advocate for people (who need medical marijuana) I am going to do it.”

Caleodis suffers from primary progressive multiple sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease that interferes with the brain’s ability to control the body. She admitted to using marijuana illegally for many years to help control the pain and progression of her disease.

“I started using medical marijuana five years ago to deal with the pain and sleep issues from my multiple sclerosis, and I’m so happy I can stop living in the shadows of the black market and purchase my medicine legally,” Caleodis said. “The launch of this program gives me easier access and the ability to do things the right way.”

Alex Griffith, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan, is another who said he is glad the relief he needs is now available.

Griffith, who suffers from PTSD, said his follow veterans suggested he try medical marijuana to help ease his problems and help him sleep, but he was reluctant to because of issues surrounding legality.

“I started using in 2014 but then I stopped because I figured the pills were a better option than a lawsuit,” he said. “Every day I would look down at the pills in my hand and wonder if I wanted to take them. You have to take the good with the bad with them. I would feel doped up all the time and the side effects, you don’t have that with medical marijuana, and the relief is immediate. Sometimes with the meds you have to wait up to two weeks for them to help and if you miss a dose, the side effects can be really bad. I suffer from PTSD and sometimes go nights in a row without sleeping. Medical marijuana will allow me to stop taking six daily prescriptions, and I look forward to regaining a higher quality of life without awful side effects.”

Griffith said his biggest hope is that other veterans who suffered like him will consider this new option for relief.

“If any vets see this, “ he said “I just want them to know there are options out there.”

Tina Clutter of Wintersville was the first to purchase medical marijuana at OVNR.

“(The opening) is good,” she said. “This had been a long time coming.”

Chad Fuller, who is a patient care specialist at OVRN, said that, to him, it’s not just a job.

“For me it’s personal,” he said. “My father struggled with PTSD. This could have helped him and a lot of people.”

Both dispensaries offer patients a personal, one-on-one, experience that helps to ensure patients get the relief they need.

Fuller explained that OVRN currently offers two strains. There is tier one, which has a lower THC level of 23 percent or less, and tier two, which has a percentage of 24 or higher. He said some strains offer a more euphoric effect, those are for people suffering from depression or anxiety. He said the second strain is more mellow and helps people who are suffering from physical pain or sleep disorders. He also said their are many products that contain both elements for those needing both kinds of relief.

According to representatives with OVRN and CY-Plus, both shops offer personal spaces where someone can sit down face-to-face with a patient care specialist to make sure he or she is getting exactly the relief they need.

“We have a nurse practitioner on staff,” Petrella said. “If someone would like to see her, they can just let us know, and we will make an appointment for them to talk to her.”

The businesses also tried to make the wait as comfortable as possible for the patients waiting to get in the dispensaries.

“We have people from Cincinnati to Columbus, Dayton to Toledo,” Erkes said.

CY-Plus had a warming tent in place where registered patients waiting for their turn could get a hot beverage and warm up. Also, according to officials, if a patient was having trouble with his or her state-issued medical marijuana card, someone was available to help them figure out the problem and get correctly registered.

The crowd outside OVNR cheered as each patient left the shop.

“I have been waiting for this (to open) for eight months,” Kevin Ensell of Steubenville said.