A very restrictive medical marijuana bill, known as House Bill 523, is close to becoming law in Ohio. Now, it only requires the signature of Gov. John Kasich. The proposal would bar patients from smoking marijuana or growing it at home, but it would allow its use in vapor form for certain chronic health conditions.
At dispensaries statewide, patients with a doctor’s recommendation would have access to products such as cannabis concentrates, tinctures, edibles and transdermal patches. Dried cannabis flowers will be available as well, but only for the use of vaporization and other “non-combustible” delivery methods. So glass pipes would likely be out of the question.
Take a moment to let that sink in. This plant is already widely in use across the country regardless of legality, Ohio included. The most common form of ingestion is, by far, smoking. Do these lawmakers really expect that they will be able to enforce how a patient consumes the plant in the privacy of their own home? Will patients be required to sign a form stating that they agree not to use combustion to ingest their medicine? Will new language have to be added that will define at what point the ingestion method is considered to be producing smoke rather than vapor?
The bill also begs the question, have these lawmakers learned anything from prohibition?
It’s bad enough that these politicians, who are utterly uneducated in cannabis treatment, are trying to tell patients how to use medical cannabis. But, adding to the absurdity are the planned limitations on the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that medical marijuana products can contain – plant material will be capped at 35% THC, and extracts will be capped at 75% THC. This is arguably a step in the wrong direction and sets a scary precedent. Legislative bodies should not be putting ceilings on things that simply do not need to be regulated.
Additionally, one of the big issues many patients have with the current legislation is that it disallows any home cultivation. This will prevent thousands of sick patients and their families from cultivating their own medicine instead of having to buy from licensed dispensaries.
Furthermore, the bill also allows employers to keep drug-free workplace policies. That means that employers will have the right to fire, or choose not to hire, an individual based on marijuana use, even if that employee has the state’s permission to use the drug. Although there are regulations in place protecting an individual’s right to take legally prescribed drugs, those do not apply to marijuana.
Despite all of the disapproval, this bill has for now halted the efforts of Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, the group that has been picking up where OTEP and ResponsibleOhio left off to collect signatures for a more reasonable initiative. They announced that organizers decided with “a heavy heart” to halt the collection of signatures indefinitely. The ballot campaign initially said the legislation would bolster their efforts; but the statement from campaign manager Brandon Lynaugh said that while the group still believes patients should be allowed to grow and smoke their own marijuana, the bill was “a step forward”, and “all in all, a moderately good piece of legislation passed by lawmakers who were pushed hard by the patient community.” Backed by the nationally-active Marijuana Policy Project, the Ohio group said the bill’s final version removed red tape and regulations that would have limited patient access. It said it will continue as an advocate to make sure the state adheres to the legislation and will work to improve the program.
Many frustrated Ohioans are calling the group out on social media channels with comments accusing the group of ‘selling out’ and claiming that there was a behind-the-scenes cash settlement.
Still, some pro-MMJ Ohioans are optimistic about the bill. Many look at it as simply a stepping stone, saying ‘you have to start somewhere’. It has been compared to the situation in Oregon – a state which has only legalized concentrates and edibles just last week, despite having legalized recreational use last fall.
What is your take on this turn of events? Would you support this bill? Let us know in the comments!