Ohio Becomes the 26th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Ohio has just become the twenty-sixth state to legalize a modest medical marijuana program.

On Wednesday, without feeling the need for a highly publicized signing ceremony, Governor John Kasich put his signature on a bill that will allow patients suffering from an impressive list of qualified conditions to purchase cannabis products, including edibles, oils and vapors, from any number of dispensaries that will soon emerge across the state.

The word on the street is the new law will take effect in around the next 90 days, and although the state’s cultivation and distribution system will not be arranged by that time, patients will still be able to use the “medical marijuana defense” if they happen to encounter a pesky run in with the law; not a bad compromise considering it could take up to a year before state regulators are able to put a concrete plan into action.

That means beginning sometime around September, patients who are able to track down a recommendation from a state licensed physician will have the option of purchasing cannabis products from a legal state — like neighboring Michigan — and start using the medicine without the risk of a shakedown by the boys in blue.

Ohio’s medical marijuana program was designed to help the seriously ill, giving only those people with “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,” the option to participate.

However, the guts of Ohio’s medical marijuana law does not provide anyone with permission to smoke or grow weed, which means possession of the flower is an offense that could still result in a trip to jail. And since anything derived from the cannabis plant is against the law in the eyes of the federal government, people caught transporting marijuana across the state line can be prosecuted on federal drug trafficking changes, so you’ll have to be careful out there.

Unfortunately, as with most states that have similar laws on the books, the use of physician recommended medical marijuana could still result in some nasty repercussions in the workplace. Ohio is the fourth largest manufacturing state in the nation, which means a significant number of the working class earns a living operating some type of machinery – and with that comes the dreaded random drug screen. Although testing positive for drugs, like painkillers and anxiety medications, typically will not lead to a person losing their job as long as they have a prescription from a doctor, medical marijuana does not carry the same weight – employers throughout the state of Ohio will still have the right to fire any worker who tests positive for weed.

Many local pot advocates are still sore that they have been forced to settle for a medical marijuana law written by the Ohio General Assembly rather than a more comprehensive proposal. Two weeks ago, immediately following the legislature’s passing of House Bill 523, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, a group working to put an initiative in front of voters this November, announced that they were closing up shop because they were satisfied with the program pushed through by the governmental brass. Of course, this action steamed a bunch of supporters who accused the organization of striking a deal with lawmakers and essentially stealing the campaign contributions of the average citizen in order to pass mutt legislation. Those allegations were denied.

Upon the news that Governor Kasich had signed the medical marijuana bill into law, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana spokesman Aaron Marshall told HIGH TIMES that “this is a joyous day for the thousands of Ohioans who will finally be able to safely access much-needed medicine.”

“Congratulations to all the patients and advocates whose intense advocacy efforts helped to make this day into a reality,” Marshall said. “We still have much work ahead of us to improve this imperfect law while holding state lawmakers and regulators to the promises contained in HB 523, but we are proud of the role that we played in getting this law enacted. We plan on working to better this program, utilizing our amendment as a roadmap for those improvements.”

photo: Bryan Thomas/Getty Images

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