If medicinal pot is to work in Ohio, checks need to be in place

Marijuana dispensaries will be coming to several towns in East Ohio — including Marietta — soon. Coshocton and East Liverpool will each get one. Wintersville is getting two.

Personnel at the Cresco Labs Ohio store on Main Street in Wintersville, let the press in for a look the other day.

By all appearances, the operation seems like what many Buckeye State residents had in mind when they voted to allow sale of marijuana products for medicinal purposes only. Many of the staff at Cresco have health care backgrounds, which is appropriate, given the purpose of then dispensary.

And a major concern at the store is verifying that customers are legally eligible to purchase marijuana products. Doing so requires approval by a physician licensed under the medicinal marijuana program. Dispenaries will check on that.

So, if you’re interested in buying marijuana products for recreational purposes, you’re out of luck.

At least, that’s the plan.

Dispensaries have every reason to operate according to the letter of the law. If they’re caught cutting corners, they can be shut down. The same goes for examining physicians.

But the history of the opioid abuse crisis raises concern in that regard.

Many opiate addicts got hooked on prescription pain pills before moving on to street drugs such as heroin. Often, they obtained the painkillers legally, by going to doctors who felt it important to ease their patients’ pain. In many such cases, the doctors acted out of the purest of motives, but they were being duped.

That cannot be allowed to happen with Ohio’s medicinal marijuana program.

Both state and local authorities need to keep a sharp eye out for medicinal marijuana purchasers who mislead prescribers intentionally. Doctors who think they are being played for suckers should alert law enforcement agencies.

We should have learned a lesson from errors in handling opioid painkillers. Let’s not make the same mistakes again.