Gov. John Kasich signed into law June 8 a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio, making it the 25th state to do so. The law takes effect in 90 days, when Ohioans with a doctor’s recommendation will be able to purchase medical cannabis in other states with legal programs.
The medical program will be fully implemented within two years, with rules determined within a year by a Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee to be created within in a month of the law going into effect.
Other state departments will manage various parts of the program. The Department of Commerce will determine the number of cultivator licenses statewide and regulate cultivators, processors and testing labs. The state’s Board of Pharmacy will determine allowed legal 90-day supplies of medication and register both caregivers and patients. Physicians seeking to be able to recommend medical marijuana treatment will need to be certified by the Medical Board.
The Department of Commerce will determine the number of cultivator licenses by considering the population of the state and the number of patients seeking medical marijuana, according to Tom Haren, attorney at Seeley, Savidge, Ebert & Gourash Co., LPA, a law firm on the west side of Cleveland. The law states the department will issue licenses to entities that:
Pass the relevant criminal background checks;
Do not have an interest in a medical marijuana testing laboratory;
Will not be located within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, playground, or public park;
Are in compliance with the pertinent tax laws; and
Meet all other eligibility conditions established by the Department.
In the program, cultivators will only be able to sell to processors, who may only sell to dispensaries, who may only sell to caregivers or patients.
Though the law does still allow for patients to be tested or fired for medical marijuana use, an affirmative defense to a criminal charge will be established for use of medical marijuana by a patient. It does not allow for smoking of medical marijuana, or any kind of home grow. Patients may use medical marijuana through vaporizers, edibles or oils.
The law covers 19 medical conditions, according to the Marijuana Policy Project: AIDS, ALS, Alzheimer’s, cancer, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), Crohn’s, seizure disorders, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, IBS, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, ulcerative colitis, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, and pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable.
Kasich’s office announced through a press release that the bill had been signed.
“This is a joyous day for the thousands of Ohioans who will finally be able to safely access much-needed medicine,” says Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. “As we continue this movement to bring medical marijuana to all Buckeyes who need it, we will remember today as a huge step forward.”
Those interested in growing medical marijuana in Ohio need to meet with professional advisors including lawyers and accountants, says Haren.
“People interested in cultivation need to know the ramifications of the continued federal prohibition, including banking and tax issues, and need to understand the complexity of the state system – which at this point is still largely undefined because the regulations have not been written,” he says.
While regulations are drafted, it’s also important to get involved in the rule-making process to help make a program that gets qualified patients affordable access, he says.