House Bill 523 passed into law in 2016, legalizing marijuana in Ohio for medical use. The program, which was to be jointly overseen by the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, Ohio Department of Commerce, State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy and State Medical Board of Ohio, was tasked to be up and running by September 8, 2018. Unfortunately, due to a series of delays, it appears that the industry will need a little longer to get its infrastructure up and running. In the meanwhile, patients will have to continue waiting.
A Series of Setbacks
The launch of the patient registry has been delayed for a variety reasons. The first reason is that, due to a delay in distributing and approving cultivator licenses, there will be no marijuana products available in dispensaries by September 8. While 25 cultivators have been approved in the state, they cannot begin to grow the plant until they have undergone a facility inspection. Of the 25, only one facility has been inspected and approved to grow medical marijuana. While more cultivators are set to undergo inspection this month, it will still be too late to make the September deadline. Marijuana takes between 16 and 22 weeks to grow to maturity and then the plant would have to be converted into marijuana products, such as oils, edibles and pills.
Why the Registry Launch Has Been Delayed
There is an “affirmative defense” clause in Ohio’s marijuana law that protects patients in possession of marijuana from other states where it is legal, so long as they have a valid recommendation from their doctor and they suffer from one of the 21 qualifying conditions. The problem lies in the protection ending after 180 days of the patient registry going online. At this point in time, if the registry went online and the delays continued, patients would be at risk of losing their protection. For this reason, the registry launch has been delayed until a more accurate date can be established.
While some of the 10 sponsors of House Bill 523 are understanding about the delays, others are a little more frustrated. “That date was not a suggestion or a target,”said State Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain according to the News Herald. “That’s when the program, by law, is to be fully operational. If that deadline is not met, the people running the program and the people reporting to (Ohio) Governor (John) Kasich are failing to follow the law. This is unacceptable. We’re talking about medicine for sick people who need it today.”
As it stands, those deadlines have not been met and there is no way to get the product out to the 56 approved dispensaries in time. The wheels continue to move forward regardless and, despite delays, Ohio is still attempting to move forward in establishing a medical marijuana industry that is functional. 30 states have legalized the plant for medicinal use now and very soon Ohio residents suffering from debilitating disorders such as cancer, epilepsy, AIDS and more will have access to the medicinal plant.