The state has released the first information about how it will implement the medical marijuana law that takes effect Sept. 8.
So far, questions outnumber answers.
The first question — When will marijuana be available? — is the easiest to answer: no later than September 2018, but possibly earlier.
Tons of rules and standards remain to be written, staff must be hired and licenses approved before the first patient recommendation for legal pot can be written. Plus, marijuana has to be grown, processed, tested and sent to dispensaries before it gets in the hands of patients.
One thing we know from the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program’s new website is that the state is looking for expert help. The state will pay $50,000 to a contractor “with specialized industry knowledge to assist with the development of the rules and regulations impacting cultivators of medical marijuana.” The job will involve “researching cultivation techniques and processes utilized in other states” and “establishing cultivation standards for business operating in Ohio.”
The new law stems from House Bill 523, legislation hurriedly pushed through the General Assembly and signed into law this year by Gov. John Kasich to cut off a more liberal ballot issue backed by the Marijuana Policy Project. The group dropped its ballot issue after the bill was signed.
The law sets up a highly regulated “seed-to-sale” system for growing, processing, testing and dispensing marijuana for people with any of 20 specified medical diseases and conditions. Ohio will be the 25th state, plus the District of Columbia, to allow medical marijuana. Patients will be able to get a recommendation from a physician for a 90-day supply of marijuana edibles, patches, oils, tinctures and plant material. Vaporizing marijuana (vaping) will be permitted, but smoking will not.
Home growing and recreational use of marijuana will not be allowed.
The Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio Board of Pharmacy, State Medical Board and an appointed advisory committee will be involved in rule-making, some of which will be rolled out this fall, according to the state website. The program must by operational by September 2018.
Facts from the website:
- The Department of Commerce will develop rules for growers, processors, and testing laboratories.
- The Board of Pharmacy will create rules, applications and fees for dispensaries; it will also establish the number of dispensaries permissible statewide.
- Physicians won’t be able to prescribe marijuana because of federal law. However, they will be allowed to “recommend” medical marijuana for patients, following certification by the State Medical Board.
- Marijuana will be available to people with the following diseases and conditions: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis. Patients and caregivers will have to register with the state.