I was at work yesterday when news broke that the Ohio Legislature voted to legalize medical marijuana. The bill is not perfect, and in fact it will actually need a ton of improvement, but it's definitely better than nothing. Hopefully it helps at least some patients and gets the ball rolling towards a better medical marijuana law in Ohio. Per Reuters:
Lawmakers in Ohio on Wednesday approved legislation that would legalize marijuana use for medical purposes under certain circumstances, less than a year after recreational marijuana use was soundly defeated by Ohio voters.
The bill, approved by both chambers of the state's Republican-led legislature, heads to Republican Governor John Kasich for his signature as his office said on Wednesday that he will review the bill.
If the bill becomes law, Ohio would have a medical marijuana law more similar to New York and Minnesota compared to older medical marijuana programs on the West Coast. Patients would not be able to grow their own medical marijuana, and would be required to purchase all products from licensed outlets. All products must be non-smoke-able forms, such as tinctures, topicals, and products that can be vaporized.
Below is a reaction to the vote from the Ohio medical marijuana campaign which plans to still push forward with their medical marijuana initiative in an attempt to improve on the Ohio Legislature's bill:
With the approval of H.B. 523 by the Ohio Senate and expected concurrence by the Ohio House of Representatives, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana will move toward the November ballot with the issue of patient's rights to medical marijuana supported by the Ohio General Assembly.
"This General Assembly has taken a step forward on this issue," said Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. "Their support for medical marijuana speaks volumes for eliminating any remaining biases against allowing doctors to recommend this life-enhancing treatment to patients in need."
"Our Constitutional amendment builds on the legislature's work by incorporating national best practices and offers voters an opportunity to enact a law free of the horse-trading inherent in the legislative process. Our amendment also protects the rights of patients in the Ohio Constitution, not leaving this important issue vulnerable to the reach of special interests."
While the legislative bill clears several important societal and policy-making hurdles, it omits a number of critical issues: They include:
- The qualifying conditions list in H.B. 523 is still too limited. The amendment proposed by Ohioans for Medical Marijuana also includes such conditions as muscular dystrophy, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behavior, Huntington's disease, cachexia or wasting syndrome and severe and persistent muscle spasms.
- H.B. 523 prohibits qualifying patients from being able to smoke medical marijuana, regardless of whether their physician approves or not.
- Qualified patients and their caregivers are not allowed to grow small amounts of medical marijuana on their own under H.B. 523.
- H.B. 523 continues to delegate too much legislative authority to boards and commissions to decide critical regulatory and licensing issues.
"We have a commitment to the entire patient community to continue our campaign and bring relief to all those who suffer from these conditions," said Marshall.