Ohio’s medical marijuana law goes into effect on September 8, but patients shouldn’t expect to get cannabis treatment anytime soon. While the date is less than a month away, state regulators are only now working out the details of how to regulate the treatment.
Ohio officials say many of the rules and standards regarding medical marijuana still need to be written and licenses need to be issued before even one patient can receive cannabis. Additionally, marijuana plants still have to be cultivated, processed, tested, and distributed to dispensaries.
According to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, the process to get the program fully functional will take at least two years. The agency estimates September 2018 will be the soonest a safe, effective medical marijuana product will be available to dispensaries.
House Bill 523, which made medical marijuana legal in Ohio, was approved by the state’s General Assembly and signed into law by Governor John Kasich earlier this year. The legislation calls for a highly regulated “seed-to-sale” system for growing, processing, testing, and distribution of cannabis to patients suffering from one of 20 medical conditions. Also, no marijuana facility is permitted within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground, or public park.
Before a patient can use the controversial treatment, they must get a recommendation from a doctor. The cannabis will be available in a variety of forms, including edibles, patches, oils, and tinctures. While smoking the plant is still illegal, marijuana vaping will be permitted. Growing cannabis at home and recreational weed smoking will remain illegal in the state.
Under the law, the Department of Commerce will be in charge of developing regulations for growers, processors, and testing facilities. The Board of Pharmacy will create the applications and determine the fees for licensing of dispensaries as well as decide how many are allowed in the state.
As federal law still considers marijuana an illicit drug, doctors will be prohibited from prescribing medical cannabis. After a physician is certified by the State Medical Board of Ohio, the law allows them to “recommend” the drug for certain patients.
Medical marijuana will be available to patients suffering from several life-threatening and debilitating diseases, including AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, and epilepsy. Before treatment, a patient or caregiver must be registered with Ohio.
To get Ohio’s medical marijuana program up and running, the state is looking for some expert help. Anyone “with specialized industry knowledge” can apply for a job and “assist with the development of the rules and regulations impacting cultivators of medical marijuana.”
The position pays $50,000 and involves studying the growing methods and procedures of other states where medical cannabis is legal. The chosen person will also help develop standards for marijuana businesses in Ohio. The person would also have to pass a pre-employment drug test.
While the state’s medical marijuana law allows patients to be treated with the drug, it also allows employers to terminate employees for cannabis use. If an employer has a written drug-free workplace policy or other specified rules that prohibit marijuana use, an employee can be fired if found to be in violation.
While the medical marijuana law has not officially taken effect, many communities in Ohio are making moves to prevent cannabis companies from opening up shop in their area. Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland, is among several other municipalities to put a six-month ban on permits related to marijuana businesses. While the effort will likely not affect any businesses since none will be licensed in the next six months, the prohibition is meant to give local officials more time to decide if additional marijuana laws are needed.
“There’s a lot of unknowns when this gets rolled out,” said Kent Scarrett, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League. “The state made this change, but this change is coming to our communities.”
Ohio is the 25th state to approve marijuana for medicinal purposes. A handful of other states, including Arkansas and Missouri, will be voting to legalize medical cannabis in November.
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