Ryan Brown and Brandon Durbin opened the doors to Ohio Green Team, a medical-marijuana clinic at 1580 Fishinger Road, suite 100, last July.
They call it a "passion project," one that has its roots in their own lives: In the past 10 years, both lost their fathers to opioid addiction and they see medical marijuana as an alternative treatment that can keep patients away from opiates.
Ohio Green Team's two physicians, Drew Kowalewsky, D.O. and Louis L. Bowman, D.O., have seen approximately 1,000 people since the business opened, providing recommendations for patients who qualify under the state's 21 guidelines to receive medical marijuana.
Those recommendations then are forwarded to the State Board of Pharmacy, which ultimately issues cards to qualifying patients.
Marijuana is not cultivated or sold at the Upper Arlington location. Rather, the office serves as a first step in the process for patients who seek to be assessed for their eligibility to receive medical marijuana through the state's process.
"It's simply a medical office," said Brown. "Because we're a medical office, I think UA is a little more understanding.
"I'm not sure everyone knows we're here, but we hope people will open their minds to alternative medicines."
Brown, who lives in Powell, and Durbin, who has moved to San Francisco, said they have seen the toll opioid addictions have taken in Ohio and throughout the nation.
"We were able to boot-strap this ourselves with our own money," Brown said. "We really built this company on the idea of 'no more pills.'
"We've had some sad stories coming in, but we see cannabis helping people. The initiative is working."
In Ohio, qualifying conditions for receiving a medical-marijuana card include AIDS, glaucoma, chronic pain, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, seizures and ulcerative colitis.
Brown said of the roughly 1,000 patients Ohio Green Team has seen, fewer than 30 have been college-age adults, and the majority range in age from 55 to 65.
Patients bring their medical records and pay a $199 fee if they receive a recommendation, Brown said.
Mike Adams' story
One proponent of Ohio Green Team and medical marijuana is Mike Adams, a Dublin Coffman High School graduate who went on to star as an offensive tackle at Ohio State University before a five-year career in the National Football League.
At 28 years old, Adams is retired from football, but he said playing the collision sport since childhood took a toll on his body. He's had ankle, knee and back surgeries, he's been diagnosed with chronic pain and, he said, has shown symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain condition associated with repeated blows to the head.
Adams said he experimented with marijuana in high school and began using it more regularly in college and once he was in the NFL.
"When I was in the NFL, I used marijuana pretty regularly for pain management and rest," he said. "I've been evaluated by (NFL) doctors and diagnosed with suffering chronic pain."
Adams said some of his pain never goes away, and some days he has difficulties just getting out of bed.
He said marijuana has provided a way for him to manage the pain without having to take opioid painkillers.
"I think it's a positive thing if you can get someone away from those things like opioids that are linked to addiction and death," Adams said. "I think with medical marijuana, we're doing a good thing and going in the right direction."
Adams said he prefers to consume cannabis-infused edibles to treat his conditions and noted products being sold at medical-marijuana dispensaries include edibles, oils and marijuana flowers, or buds, that can be ingested by vaporizing rather than smoking.
He said he's hopeful Ohio will continue moving toward healthier options of edibles -- besides chocolates or other candies -- and he thinks the medical-marijuana industry could help kick-start economies, especially in areas like Cleveland and Youngstown.
"I think it can have a positive impact on the Rust Belt area," Adams said. "It could really provide a great avenue to get people and jobs back in those areas."
Green Team growth
Brown said although the Ohio Green Team office is only open 20 to 22 hours a week, it's seeing up to 200 patients a month.
Based on that success, he and Durbin plan to open three offices this year, in Carroll, Cleveland and Springfield.
"The idea is to make money, of course," Brown said. "We've been approached by multiple investors. But it's less to do with that and more about the passion project."
Brown hopes that as more people learn about the office, the community will become more comfortable with medical marijuana as a way to treat a variety of illnesses.
He said he hopes to allay any fears people have by pulling back the curtain on what his doctors do.
"I would tell anyone who's skeptical or confused to come in," he said. "They don't even need to be interested in a medical-marijuana card. We know the topic is controversial and we accept that. We just hope people will educate themselves."