COLUMBUS — Last Wednesday, Ohio became the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana when Gov. John Kasich approved a plan presented by the Ohio House of Representatives.
The program should be fully operational in two years or less, and will allow patients to use vaporized marijuana for chronic health issues, but will now allow it to be smoked or grown at home.
The law will take effect in 90 days, at which time localities can move to ban or limit dispensaries. Licensed cultivators, processors, dispensaries, and testing laboratories will be prohibited from setting up within 500 feet of churches, schools, parks, playgrounds, or public libraries. Employers will still be able to enforce drug testing and according policies. Banks providing services to marijuana-related businesses will be protected from criminal prosecution.
A Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee has been formed to form the rules, with 14 members to be appointed by the governor and lawmakers no later than 30 days after the bill goes into effect. The membership of the panel must represent employers, labor, patients, caregivers, local law enforcement, agriculture, the mental health industry, and the drug and alcohol treatment industry, a nurse, an academic researcher, two practicing pharmacists, and two practicing physicians, with no more than six members of the same political party. The language in the bill dismantles the committee after five years and 30 days.
The Ohio Department of Commerce will be responsible for licensing marijuana cultivators, processors, and testing labs. The Board of Pharmacy will handle licensing of dispensaries, registration of patients and caregivers, and setting up a hotline to field questions. The State Medical Board will issue certificates to doctors recommending medical marijuana in patient treatment.