Governor Jon Kasich signed the bill into law this week, making Ohio the 26th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. The law will require a physician’s recommendation to legally use the drug and, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, at least 76% of physicians surveyed approved of the use of medical marijuana, so it shouldn’t be too hard for an Ohioan to find a doctor that will sign off on their need for medical use.
Currently, there are no commercial cultivators within the state, which means patients will have to go out of state where it’s already legal until Ohio has time to catch up. Operations must be up and running within two years, but proponents of the bill believe it will happen much sooner. It will likely take the state at least a year before qualified patients can purchase the drug from the comfort of their home state.
Ohio’s new law is relatively strict and will be heavily regulated, especially when compared to states like California where there are no specific conditions on the use of medical marijuana. Smoking marijuana will still be illegal in Ohio, but the change will allow patients to use vaporizers, edibles and oils. Despite the fact that patients will not be able to grow their own plants at home, the law will provide patients with a prescription a valid affirmative defense to possible possession charges.
Polls showed 90% of Ohioans support medical marijuana and, fearing a less restrictive constitutional amendment, lawmakers pushed the bill through, giving them the power to craft their own rules and regulations regarding growth, sale, and use of medical marijuana.
Qualifications to Obtain a Prescription Will Be Heavily Regulated
Growth, sale, and use will be heavily regulated by the Ohio State Pharmacy Board, the State Medical Board, and the Department of Commerce. Additionally, part of that regulation will include a board of 14 members that recommend rules to the foregoing regulatory agencies.
Despite giving a board regulatory and policymaking powers, all dispensaries must be licensed by the state and any physician wanting to write such a prescription will be required to complete some form of continuing education about marijuana before they register with the state. There will also be some sort of patient registration process likely put into effect.
Only certain medical conditions will qualify a patient to be allowed medical marijuana. The law, however, will not exempt users from employee regulated drug-free policies, meaning, even though you have a prescription, your company can still terminate for marijuana use if it violates their drug policy.
The list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana in Ohio are:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE),
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy or another seizure disorder
- Hepatitis C
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sickle cell anemia
- Spinal cord disease or injury
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Traumatic brain injury
- Ulcerative colitis
The maximum prescription is 90-day supply. When the plan is eventually grown in the state, the marijuana flowers cannot contain more than 35% THC and extracts must be below at least 70%. Marijuana laced products that are especially attractive to children, like gummi bears, are strictly prohibited.
How Does Ohio’s Law CompareWith Other States?
Only 4 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, but 25 other states have some form of medical marijuana laws on the books. Besides small nuances, Ohio’s policies won’t be much different than others. Most require a prescription and most with serious medical conditions can obtain that prescription.
Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon don’t currently allow in-state dispensaries. Ohio will eventually once the state can get its infrastructure up and running. Michigan doesn’t allow dispensaries on a state level, but does allow localities to create ordinances to both allow and regulate dispensaries. Every state but Washington allow patient registries or ID cards for those allowed to use the marijuana.
Among the stricter states that have laws regarding medicinal marijuana, use is limited. For example, Florida allows low levels of THC, below .8%, for cancer, seizure, and/or other medical conditions that produce chronic symptoms, but only 5 registered nurseries across the state can sell the product, making it less accessible than other states. Alabama allows the University of Alabama to conduct research using low-level THC products for treating seizure disorders for a period up to 5 years.
The law only allows the University to give the treatment to patients that have debilitating epileptic conditions or life-threatening seizures. Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee have similar University research policy laws in place.