COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio became the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana last June, but it could be more than a year before Ohioans will be able to legally buy it from a retail dispensary.
Why the long wait?
Ohio’s law leaves most of the details, such as how many growers will be licensed and how doctors will qualify patients for the program, up to three state agencies. The Ohio Department of Commerce, State Board of Pharmacy and State Medical Board have begun work on the various pieces, which must undergo a rules-writing process that takes months.
A statewide ballot initiative for recreational marijuana legalization hasn’t materialized this year. But activists are trying to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana possession through local initiatives.
Ohio’s medical marijuana law allows patients with one of 20 qualifying medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by an Ohio-licensed physician. Smoking marijuana isn’t allowed, nor is growing your own at home. The law took effect Sept. 8, 2016; all rules must be in place by September 2017, and the program must be fully operational by September 2018.
Here’s a recap of what’s happened so far:
- Draft licensing requirements and rules for cultivators and dispensaries and requirements for physicians were released and have received one public comment period.
- Until patients can register, the law provides an “affirmative defense” against prosecution for marijuana possession charges if the patient had approval from their doctor to use marijuana for a qualifying condition and was complying with other parts of the law.
- Doctors have been reluctant to issue “affirmative defense” letters before official rules are in place.
- About 30 percent of Ohio physicians said they would be likely to recommend marijuana, according to a medical board survey.
- More than 50 cities and villages have placed a temporary ban on marijuana businesses, typically six months, while they decide whether to limit the number or location of cultivators, dispensaries and testing labs in their communities.
- Some cities are already working with marijuana businesses in anticipation of the state rules.
Is the state moving fast enough to implement Ohio’s program? Are the draft rules thus far appropriate for regulating a federally illegal substance? Or will the regulations be to onerous for businesses that want to start here? Should local governments have a say in where marijuana businesses locate? Is recreational marijuana in Ohio’s future?
Join us today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a civil, constructive conversation in the comments section below about Ohio’s medical law and the future of marijuana reform here.
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