Less than a year after marijuana reform suffered a stinging defeat in Ohio, lawmakers have unveiled a plan to legalize the drug as medicine by 2018.
Legislation was introduced in April that would allow patients aged 18 and up to buy, possess, and use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. If it passes, the new law would cover edibles, oils, and THC patches – and possibly smokeable cannabis.
The bill would create a state commission that would, in turn, create rules for how to grow, distribute, and sell the drug to patients. The process could take less than two years, said Republican state Rep. Kirk Schuring, who led the task force behind the legislation.
Gov. John Kasich, also a Republican, has already promised to sign “something” that provides medical marijuana to legitimate patients. Kasich could receive the bill over the summer, roughly the time his quixotic bid for the GOP presidential nomination will end.
The proposed law would grant adult patients with qualifying conditions permission to use cannabis as treatment. But it also would make a non-intoxicating form of the drug available to children with intractable epilepsy.
Home cultivation would be banned
Home grows would remain illegal, however, and lawmakers have yet to decide whether patients could smoke the drug. Several other states, including neighboring Pennsylvania, prohibit toking and require that patients vaporize the drug, eat it, or take it in pill form. Ohio would also allow transdermal patches.
Only doctors certified by the marijuana commission could recommend pot to patients, but the state would not limit the list of qualifying conditions. Instead, physicians would be given limited discretion in how they recommend the drug, and would have to submit an explanation of each recommendation every 90 days.
The bill would give local governments the power to ban dispensaries, an approach that has caused problems in other states. Lawmakers would also decide whether to tax the drug; prescription drugs regulated by the FDA are tax-free.
Critically, the bill would protect banks that opt to work with the medical marijuana industry. But that protection would not cover federal banking laws that currently discourage such financial relationships.
Reschedule marijuana to allow research
If the plan passes, Ohio would encourage the federal government to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, making it easier to research and legalize the drug. But employers could continue to fire workers who use it, even as medicine.
“The workplace can still be drug-free,” Schuring said. “Employers do not have to make accommodations for employees being recommended medical marijuana.”
Ohio voters killed an earlier proposal to legalize medical marijuana in November. That initiative also would have allowed pot for recreational use, but it died at the ballot box after voters turned on provisions that would have granted monopoly power to a small group of growers.
The new legislation was filed in the state House of Representatives. The Senate likely will wait until the House votes before acting, but senators will have their own concerns, said state Senate President Keith Faber.
“Does it include smokeable or not?” Fabre said. “Are we creating a database, just like we do with opiates? How are we going to allow the prescription? How many dispensaries are we going to have? Are we going to limit the production side? How are we going to award the licenses? Is it going to be a monopoly? All of those are questions that we have concerns about.”
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