Ohio becomes the 25th State to legalize medical marijuana.

On June 8, 2016, the State of Ohio became the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana when Governor John Kasich signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio. The bill will take effect in 90 days. Much like Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law, the law will not be fully operational for about two years. During that time, temporary regulations will be set up by the Ohio Department of Commerce. The Ohio Department of Commerce, State Medical Board and Board of Pharmacy will all play a role. The Commerce Department will oversee licensing of marijuana cultivators, processors and testing labs. The Pharmacy Board will license dispensaries and register patients and their caregivers, and set up a hotline to take questions from patients and caregivers. The Medical Board will issue certificates to physicians seeking to recommend treatment with medical marijuana. The Ohio Law calls for the Department of Commerce to create of a 14-member bipartisan advisory committee.

In contrast,  Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law is administered by the Department of Health and calls for the creation of a Medical Marijuana Advisory Board consisting of medical, police, legal and political representatives.

Specifically, Pennsylvania’s advisory board shall consist of the following members:

(1) The secretary or a designee.
(2) The Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police or a designee.
(3) The chairman of the State Board of Pharmacy or a designee.
(4) The Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs or a designee.
(5) The Physician General or a designee.
(6) The president of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association or a designee.
(7) The president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association or a designee.
(8) One member to be appointed by each of the following, which members shall be knowledgeable and experienced in issues relating to care and treatment of individuals with a serious medical condition, geriatric or pediatric medicine or clinical research:
(i) The Governor.
(ii) The President pro tempore of the Senate.
(iii) The Majority Leader of the Senate.
(iv) The Minority Leader of the Senate.
(v) The Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(vi) The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.
(vii) The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.
(9) One member appointed by the Governor, who shall be a patient, a family or household member of a patient or a patient advocate.

Like Pennsylvania’s law, Ohio’s law restricts legal forms to oils, vapors, tinctures, edibles and patches and prohibits smoking marijuana as well home growing.  Recreational use remains illegal. Under Ohio’s law, employees may be fired for marijuana use even if it was recommended to them by a doctor if the employer has a drug-free workplace or zero tolerance policy in place. Employees fired for medical marijuana use are not eligible for unemployment compensation.

Ohio patients qualify if they have the following conditions: HIV/AIDS; Alzheimer’s disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); cancer; chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE); Crohn’s disease; epilepsy or another seizure disorder; fibromyalgia; glaucoma; hepatitis C; inflammatory bowel disease; multiple sclerosis; pain that is chronic, severe, and intractable; Parkinson’s disease; post traumatic stress disorder; sickle cell anemia; spinal cord disease or injury; Tourette’s syndrome; traumatic brain injury; and ulcerative colitis. Individuals can petition the state medical board to add conditions.

As in Pennsylvania, Ohio Doctors will have to register with the state, which will require completing some type of continuing education about cannabis, before being able to recommend marijuana to patients with whom they have bona fide relationships.

Ohio’s medical marijuana law requires 500 feet between any marijuana business and a school, church, public library or public playground. Pennsylvania prohibits a medical marijuana business within 1000 feet but allows for an exemption to the prohibition upon application to the Department of Health. The Ohio law also allows local governments to restrict where cultivators, processors and dispensaries can be located or ban them altogether.

Until Ohio growers and dispensaries are set up, Ohio patients will be allowed to purchase from other states. Pennsylvania growers/processors and dispensaries who become licensed and operational quickly may realize some benefit.

With 25 states having now legalized medical marijuana, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the country follows.

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