Where’s The Weed?
The Ohio statute required the marijuana sales process to be in place and ready by September of 2018. But that process has hit road blocks along the way, leaving medical marijuana patients in limbo. In the two years since House Bill 523 was signed, only four of 26 businesses selected to grow medical marijuana have passed inspections the state deems necessary to begin selling. A heap of law suits, unpaid fees, bidding wars and yes, even public Twitter beefs have popped up delaying the state’s efforts. Add a long cultivation period, then processing the marijuana into edible and oil form and it has pushed access into 2019 for Ohio medical patients (smoking it will remain illegal).
Based on a 2016 study done by Harm Reduction Ohio (a drug policy reform group), about 1.24 million Ohioans use marijuana. That’s a 14 percent increase from the survey taken before 2015, the year of the highly controversial “Issue 3” Cannabis legalization initiative, that had Ohio voters saying no to the monopoly that the bill would create on marijuana cultivation and sales.
Eight months later Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 523, which permits the medical use of Marijuana in SOME cases. The bill was approved and set in place a rule process for cultivation, production, patient registration, and dispensary retail operations to be established and regulated. The bill included 21 debilitating diseases and conditions that allow an Ohio citizen to gain a medical license necessary to purchase marijuana. The twenty-one medical conditions listed in the bill are:
AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Crohn’s disease, epilepsy (or other seizure disorder), fibromyalgia, glaucoma, 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, and “any other disease or condition added by the state medical board.
Marijuana User Rights
So, what do we do until then? Here are some quick facts regarding Marijuana user rights in Ohio right now that may make you feel better but don’t provide access to marihuana now!
First, not many people know Ohio was the 6th state to actually decriminalize Marijuana. The bill was signed by Republican Governor James Rhodes on August 22nd , 1975. This made it so that under Ohio Law, possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana is a minor misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of 150 dollars with no jail time. Possession of more than 100 grams but less than 200 grams carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a 250 dollar fine. There are factors that can change these penalties including prior arrests and convictions, possible intent of distribution, or being tied to an ongoing investigation. Surprisingly, for a state that is notoriously behind times, the penalties on marijuana are pretty tame in comparison to Indiana or other neighboring states.
This information can seriously scare a medical marijuana or prospective medical marijuana patient away from even researching how they can obtain Cannabis for medical use, moreover, if they do more research, they will find patient registration is delayed along with the rest of House Bill 523’s regulatory processes. At first it seems like just another road block, but this delay was actually put in place to help potential Ohio Medical card holders. Pre-registration for a medical marijuana license without knowing when dispensaries and the state will be ready to accept patients could prohibit them from obtaining medical marijuana from another legal state, leaving them locked out of seeking medicine until Ohio finalizes its legalization process.
While some feel the delay was a preventative measure for patients to avoid legal problems, others do see it as just another road block designed by the state to steer potential patients away from seeking out marijuana as medicine. This dispute put an affirmative defense in House Bill 523 that allows patients to obtain medical marijuana in other legal states and it will expire 60 days after registration begins in Ohio. So you do have the option of traveling to Michigan to obtain your medical card and medicinal marijuana.
So Now What?
So now we wait. In the state’s defense, two years may have been a bit ambitious to expect all of the pieces of House Bill 523 to be ready to go fully public, but other states, including our neighbors in Pennsylvania, have proved that argument wrong. Of the 31 states to legalize medical marijuana roll-out periods vary from 4 months to 4 years. The stall of medical marijuana being available to Ohio patients is frustrating but it could make for a safe program for Ohio patients and people in the marijuana industry. Rushing to meet deadlines and pay fees has the potential to cause more problems than we have right now. So be patient, our day in the sun is on the horizon.
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