Ohio Legislators Introduce Discriminatory MMJ Bill

Legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio has more than enough popular support, if only the key players could get, and keep, reasonable proposals on the table. Preferably, one proposal.

According to public polls, nearly three out of four Ohioans agree that access to marijuana for certain medical conditions should be a constitutional right; Yet once again—after last year’s disastrous initiative went down in flames—there are competing pot legalization bills floating around, causing confusion and creating untenable obstacles.

And in addition to the numerous legalization initiatives locking horns, the Republicans in the House recently introduced a bill viewed as blatantly discriminatory against MMJ users in the work place.

Republican House Bill 523 suggests that employers do not have to accommodate an employee’s legal use of medical marijuana and does not stop employers from firing, or refusing to hire, someone because of their need to use MMJ.

“A person who is discharged from employment because of that person’s use of medical marijuana shall be considered to have been discharged for just cause,” according to the GOP Bill.

Ohio Marijuana Policy Project’s proposed constitutional amendment specifically states the opposite—medical marijuana use should not change or affect the employment relationship between a private employer and an employee.

United Ohio, a coalition of cannabis activists, said the Republican proposal leaves patients’ safety at the whim of “changes in a political party” and puts patients and caregivers at risk for legal prosecution.

Testimony recently heard at a meeting of several Ohio Chambers of Commerce defended employers’ policies, including drug screenings. The chambers also seek to ensure that workers fired because of MMJ-related violations can’t get unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile, as the medical marijuana battle rages in Ohio, there are those who have gotten tired of waiting around.

Confident that some form of legalization will pass this coming November, business partners Nic Balzer and Robert Ryan started Cincinnati-based QC Infusion.

This weekend, they unveiled their first product—Queen City Hemp, an oil extract derived from hemp.

Balzer explained to HIGH TIMES that they have to import hemp already extracted, which they mix and formulate into a high-CBD infusion.

“We can’t grow hemp and can’t extract from hemp,” he said. “We’re surrounded by hemp producers—Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois—but it’s still illegal here.”

While their operation has been approved by Ohio’s Board of Health and Agriculture Department, their hands are tied by Ohio’s strict laws, Balzer added. Ohio is lagging behind the 27 states that have removed hemp production barriers to take advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program under the 2014 Farm Bill.

Balzer, who finds the GOP House Bill 523 to be discriminatory toward MMJ users, is also concerned that it leaves small business owners in the dark, wondering whether they’ll have a place in the market.

(Photo Courtesy of Philly.com)

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