About seven months after soundly rejecting a bill to make medical marijuana legal, Ohio lawmakers changed gears to send a bill to the desk of Governor John Kasich to legalize the cannabis for medical purposes under certain circumstances. On Wednesday, Ohio’s Senate voted 7-5 to approve the bill. On May 10, Ohio’s House voted 71-26 in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.
A survey conducted by Quinnipiac University earlier this month showed that Ohioans broadly support legal medical marijuana, with 90% of the 1,042 people polled expressing the desire to see it passed into law.
If Gov. Kasich signs off on the bill, Ohio will become the 25th state to approve the use of marijuana in some form. The governor hasn’t said which way he will go on the proposed law change, but has expressed some support for legalizing medical marijuana. More succinctly, Kasich sees benefits in treating children suffering from seizures.
As I wrote following the House vote, pot advocates aren’t exactly praising the structure of bill, which, on average, is more limiting that legislation approved by other lawmakers across the country.
The bill only legalizes adults buying cannabis oils, tinctures, plant material, patches and edibles with a doctor’s referral. Adults can also purchase the named products for their children with a doctor’s recommendation. The bill also determines that the Ohio Dept. of Commerce will oversee the growing, processing and testing of medical marijuana; doctors will be certified to recommend cannabis through the Ohio State Medical Board; and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy will take care of registering patients, caregivers and licensing dispensaries.
No details on the number of commercial growers or dispensaries are part of the legislation.
Conditions approved for cannabis use are defined as:
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- chronic traumatic encephalopathy
- Crohn’s disease
- epilepsy or another seizure disorder
- hepatitis C
- inflammatory bowel disease
- multiple sclerosis
- chronic pain
- 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
- ulcerative colitis
In addition to the lack of some details, advocates for marijuana use are disappointed that the law has no provisions for legalizing smoking medical marijuana or growing it at home. Further, the bill makes it possible that employees who test positive for marijuana could be fired and blocked from collecting unemployment.
Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) acknowledged that “this bill is not perfect…but it’s what Ohio patients need.” On a more upbeat note, Yuko went on to say, “If we can give just one veteran comfort, if we can ease just one cancer patient’s pain, if we can save one child’s life, this bill will be worth it.”
Part of the reason in lawmakers moving the measure forward is to try head off cannabis proponents with their less restrictive medical marijuana ballot initiative for a November vote to amend the state’s constitution.
Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, backed by industry behemoth Marijuana Policy Project, are not giving up their fight for looser policy, namely making smoking and home cultivation legal, as well as better defining commercial growers and nixing the verbiage about employers firing employees. The groups are working to get the 305,000 signatures required by July 6 to bring a vote to the people.
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