Although Ohio’s medical marijuana law has taken effect, experts estimate it could still take two years before regulations, grow operations, and dispensaries are established in the state.
Earlier this year, Ohio became the 25th medical marijuana state when its state legislature passed Ohio House Bill 523. That law officially came into effect September 8th.
However, even though Ohio’s medical marijuana law took effect this month, the state’s patients are going to have to keep waiting before they can legally purchase their medicine. This is due to the uncertainty underlying the fact that the state government has yet to outline how the system will fundamentally work.
Rules for producing, prescribing, and distributing cannabis to eligible patients are expected to take up to a year to craft, and it is projected to be another year after that before the first patients gain access.
“To say that medical marijuana is legal in the state of Ohio is not really a true sentence,” said Nicole Scholten, a medical marijuana advocate whose daughter suffers from seizures. “To say that the first steps of the law take effect today is a true statement.”
Ohio became the 25th medical marijuana state when its Republican-controlled legislature fast tracked the law to stay ahead of a less strict law possibly being passed by voters.
The state has much work to do before their medical marijuana system can be set up, including appointing a new medical marijuana advisory committee that Ohio lawmakers need to put into place by early October. That committee will be responsible for making recommendations regarding how the state’s new medical marijuana program should operate.
Ohio’s bill legalizing medical marijuana does spell out a legal defense for patients caught with the drug before the state finalizes the various rules and regulations. The law allows people with certain approved conditions to begin using marijuana immediately. However, no doctors have been certified by the state to give recommendations for medical marijuana to patients and there are no legal outlets for buying their medicine.
“Doctors really are in limbo,” said Reginald Fields, a spokesman for the Ohio State Medical Association. “There’s a little confusion out there, so we’re essentially asking physicians to stand by until some of these issues are clarified and we can assure they’re acting on the right side of the law.”
Until medical marijuana distribution is set up in the state, patients will be left turning to Ohio’s black market to buy their medicine, putting them in danger of breaking state and federal laws
With regard to the bill’s affirmative defense provision, the Ohio Cannabis Association writes, “While the new law includes affirmative defense provisions which would essentially give patients an excuse if caught possessing medical marijuana, in their current form these provide little or no practical protection to patients. Under the requirements, the patient must obtain a complicated statement from a licensed physician authorizing them to use medical marijuana. With so much uncertainty, it would be difficult if not impossible to get such a letter and there remains no way for patients to legally obtain medical marijuana since the state has not yet developed to the rules to grow or distribute it.”
How soon real access comes, remains to be seen. The program isn’t required to be fully operational until September 2018.
In the meantime, Scholten, who advocates for medical marijuana patients through Ohio Families Cann and United Ohio, is encouraging patients to discuss medical marijuana treatments with their physicians now while the medical marijuana system is being crafted. She’s also encouraging patients and caregivers to research cannabidiol (CBD) oils derived from hemp.
CBD oil extracted from low-THC hemp is legal to purchase and use in all 50 states, and unlike medical marijuana, it can be sent across state lines, allowing it to be delivered to your front doorstep. Learn more about CBD hemp oil here.