Ohio cannabis laws officially changed today as medical marijuana is now legal in the state. This is more of a symbolic gesture of legalization for now as there is no infrastructure in place to support a cannabis industry, however the process is now underway. The law will allow patients with 1 of 20 qualifying disorders to obtain a doctor’s recommendation which will give patients a 90 day permit, allowing them to purchase medical marijuana from a licensed dispensary during that time. Medical marijuana will be available as edibles, oils, patches and tinctures. Patients will not be allowed to smoke the herb, although vaping will be permitted.
Why Patients Are Still Waiting for Ohio Cannabis
As it stands though, there are no growers, manufacturers, testers or dispensaries to produce, test and distribute medical marijuana. On top of this, there are no registered doctors with the ability to dispense recommendations to patients. The rules, regulations and processes for the medical marijuana industry have not been written as of yet. The industry will take between 18 months and 2 years to be operating and functional for patients. In the meantime, there is still no legal way for patients to access medical marijuana. The law is very specific about the Ohio cannabis industry being run from within Ohio, from seed to sale. It would be incredibly difficult for patients to access the herb from neighboring states where it is legal as this would violate federal law.
The Affirmative Defense Option
There is some hope for patients that do manage to get medical marijuana in the legalized forms for vaping or as oils, edibles, tinctures and patches. An affirmative defense option, usable in court as a defense or even given to law enforcement to avoid arrest, will be optional now. Although it is not foolproof, if a patient with a qualifying disorder presents a doctor’s note to law enforcement or in court, they may have their charges dropped.
No Employee Rights for Patients
While the affirmative defense may work with law enforcement, employers are not being forced to recognize medical marijuana as medication unfortunately. Employers will have the option to dismiss anyone using medical marijuana if that’s how they want to run their operation. There will be no protection for patient’s rights in this matter. Having said that, it would be in the best interest of any business to have employees working at their peak levels, free from pain and discomfort. It would seem reasonable to presume that this would be the best way to ensure productivity.
The qualifying medical conditions that will allow a patient to obtain a medical marijuana recommendation include: HIV/AIDS; Alzheimer’s disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); cancer; chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE); Crohn’s disease; epilepsy or another seizure disorder; fibromyalgia; glaucoma; hepatitis C; inflammatory bowel disease; multiple sclerosis; pain that is chronic, severe, and intractable; Parkinson’s disease; post-traumatic stress disorder; sickle cell anemia; spinal cord disease or injury; Tourette’s syndrome; traumatic brain injury; and ulcerative colitis.
A new medical marijuana advisory committee, consisting of 14 members, must be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders by October 8th. The Ohio Department of Commerce will have until May 6, 2017 to write all the rules and regulations for Ohio cannabis cultivation, processing and testing, as well as decide on the nature of the application process and how many licenses will be distributed. By Sept 8, 2017, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy will have to have all the rules and regulations for dispensaries finished as well as have all the processes for registering doctors and patients completed. The program has to be fully functional by Sept 8, 2018.