On Wednesday, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio. This makes Ohio the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. The move comes after years of road blocks and delays. Finally in May, a plan for Ohio legalization of medicinal marijuana for those with doctor’s referrals was approved. Competing bills from various groups, most notably a bill from the Marijuana Policy Project that was much more relaxed in nature, put pressure on the lawmakers of Ohio to legalize medical marijuana. Once a plan was passed by the House, the Marijuana Policy Project along with other groups took their bills off the table due to high expenses and unpredictable aspects during an election year. While the approved bill is quite rigid in nature, this move means that many suffering with debilitating disorders can start to get treatment.
The Early Days of Ohio Legalization
Although the new law will take effect in 90 days, Ohio now faces a long process of setting up the infrastructure of a medical marijuana industry. Patients with qualifying conditions and doctor’s referrals will be able to purchase medical marijuana from other states until Ohio dispensaries are up and running, which could be anywhere between 2017 and early 2018. The Department of Commerce will be creating the rules for marijuana cultivation over an 8 month period. After that, licenses will need to be distributed, growers will need time to grow and dispensaries will need time to set up establishments.
Restrictions of the Law
Smoking marijuana will still be illegal in Ohio, regardless of where it is purchased. Vaporizers, oils and edibles will be the medicinal options available to patients. Edibles will not be allowed to be sold in any form or packaging that is attractive to children. Growing marijuana for personal use will still be illegal. Those who are licensed commercial cultivators, approved by the Ohio Department of Commerce, will not be allowed to grow cannabis within 500 feet of schools and public playgrounds, libraries, churches and parks.
How to Qualify for Medical Marijuana in Ohio
The qualifying conditions that can receive medical marijuana treatment are: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis. Doctors who are certified by the Ohio State Medical Association will be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana after taking a 2 hour training course on how to assess and treat conditions that qualify for medical marijuana treatment.
Shortcomings of the Bill
Ohio legalization of medical marijuana is sure to help many people suffering from debilitating illnesses but the current bill still has many restrictive aspects. One of the main concerns, in particular for Democrats in the House during the voting process, is that patients can be fired for marijuana use if it is against company policy, even if the patient has a doctor’s recommendation. Those fired would also not be eligible for unemployment compensation. Medical marijuana will not be covered by health insurance and local government may also choose to ban or limit cannabis companies.
Despite restrictions this is a big win for Ohio legalization efforts since patients can now have access to the much needed relief provided from medical marijuana. With national laws likely to change in the not-too-distant future, many are relieved to see Ohio take a step in the right direction.