By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
Ohio Governor John Kasich has signed legislation into law establishing regulations for the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis formulations to qualified patients.
House Bill 523 authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for the physician-authorized treatment of the following qualifying conditions: acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Alzheimer's disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease); cancer; chronic traumatic encephalopathy; Crohn's disease; epilepsy or other seizure disorders; fibromyalgia; glaucoma; hepatitis C; inflammatory bowel disease; multiple sclerosis; pain that is either of the following nature: (i) Chronic and severe; or (ii) 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 new law, which takes effect in 90 days, requires state regulators to license the production, distribution, and testing of cannabis products, but it forbids home cultivation of the plant.
Cannabis-specific products may be dispensed as oils, tinctures, edibles, patches, or as herbal material. Smoking herbal cannabis is not permitted under the measure; however, the measure does not clarify how this prohibition would be enforced.
The vaporizing of medical cannabis products by patients is permitted by the legislation. Similar smoking restrictions exist in four other states: Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania.
THC content in herbal cannabis will be limited to 35 percent under the measure, while extracts will be capped at 75 percent THC.
Although the program is not anticipated to be fully operational until early 2018, provisions in the law provide limited legal protections for qualifying patients who acquire cannabis from alternative sources prior to this date.
A summary of the bill is available from the Ohio Patient Network here.
Ohio is the 26th state to enact statutory language permitting the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. Last month, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed legislation amending the state's dormant medical marijuana law to permit the licensed production and distribution of cannabis-infused preparations to qualified patients. However, patients are not anticipated to have access to cannabis products under that law until late 2017 or 2018.
Proponents in Ohio who sought to place a separate, broader medical marijuana measure on the 2016 ballot had recently announced that they were suspending their campaign, stating, "[A]ll in all, [HB 523] is a moderately good piece of legislation passed by lawmakers who were pushed hard by the patient community. We plan on continuing forward as an advocacy effort to ensure that the state of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, but also working to better the program utilizing our amendment as a road map for those improvements."