Ohio Medical Marijuana Bill Advances, But Activists Are Not Celebrating

A revised bill to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio cleared a House panel on Thursday, readying the proposed legislation for a House vote next week. Despite the legislative victory, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, a group working to put their own medical marijuana initiative for the November ballot, takes issue with the legislature’s restrictive plan.

An amendment requiring physicians recommending marijuana to patients specify the forms and methods of marijuana the patient may use—as well as the amount of THC in the product—is a detail Ohioans for Medical Marijuana say is particularly problematic.

“These kinds of provisions risk putting doctors at odds with federal law, and have significantly hindered the two-year-old medical marijuana program in New York,” Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, said in a press release.

While other medical marijuana states do not allow doctors to advise THC dosage, in New York, that requirement has reportedly caused physicians to shy away from participating in the program. Physicians in Ohio would also be required to report every 90 days on how many marijuana recommendations they issued and why.

“Very few doctors will be willing to enter into a system that doesn’t trust them to make decisions that are in the best interest of their patients and ties their hands with regulatory red tape,” Marshall said.

The bill establishes a commission to write rules regulating the industry within two years, which Ohioans for Medical Marijuana say is too long a wait for patients.  It also includes around 20 medical conditions qualifying patients for the program, does not allow smoked marijuana, and limits the amount of THC between 3 and 35 percent for plant material and 70 percent for extracts.  

Unlike the legislature’s plan, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana’s initiative would allow home-grow and smoked marijuana at any level of THC, as well as a more comprehensive list of qualifying conditions.

The legislature could vote on their bill as early as Tuesday, and the Senate could pass the bill by the end of May.

Now in the signature-collecting process, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana has until July to collect the 305,000 signees required to make it onto the November ballot, and Marshall says the effort has been well-received.

"[W]e are not going to let the passage of a bad bill deter us," Marshall tells HIGH TIMES, "The bottom line is that this bill will not provide patients with access to medical marijuana. We are going to continue to move forward with a plan that provides access to medical marijuana for thousands of Ohioans with serious debilitating illnesses."

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