Republican Governor is now considering Bill 523 on medical marijuana legalization in Ohio. Even if Gov. John Kasich signs this bill into law this week, Ohioans will have to wait months before the law comes into effect. What else should happen before cannabis patients in Ohio can finally purchase weed products at local dispensaries?
Though the bill does not define the steps that must follow its signing, some social and legal consequences can already be supposed.
First of all, to consider House Bill 523 an official law, Kasich has to sign it within ten days of receiving the document. Before this bill ends up on the table of the governor, it must be prepared and signed by legislative leaders. The preparation stage may slow the process for several days. Moreover, it is still unclear whether Kasich will sign the bill or not. However, his spokesman Joe Andrews has assured the public that if the bill is good, the governor will approve it. At best, Ohio marijuana law will come into effect 90 days after it is inked by the governor, according to the legal procedure.
Secondly, House Bill 523 qualifies medical marijuana as a treatment only for patients with certain debilitating conditions, like cancer, HIV/AIDS, seizures, and other ailments mentioned in the document. To get medical cannabis, patients would need to get a prescription from a doctor with a marijuana license. Moreover, people would have to pay a fee for visiting physicians as health insurance programs do not cover medical marijuana.
The bill is also silent on where cannabis patients could buy medical marijuana. Perhaps, people would buy it on a black market or visit legal states, as there are no dispensaries in Ohio as of now. To open a dispensary, one would be required to obtain a license. However, the speed with which it can be issued would depend on how quickly each regulatory agency completes its work. The state government is planning to open dispensaries no later than September 2018, but in other states, this process lasted for several years.
Moreover, employers with low tolerance of cannabis have the right to fire their workers for using medical marijuana even if the doctor recommended it. However, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is advising employers to limit drug tests that infringe the privacy rights of workers. There is hope that some employers will relax their drug policies for cannabis patients.
During the November ballot, medical marijuana advocates want to vote for putting the amendment legalizing cannabis in the state constitution. The amendment contains a list of qualifying conditions and regulates the relations of Ohioans with the established licensing and regulatory agencies. Moreover, as a part of the constitution, the amendment would have supremacy over state laws. Thus, the parts of House Bill 523 that prohibit medical marijuana smoking would be considered unconstitutional and lose their force in the result.
Besides, there are some other actions we should expect if Kasich signs the bill this week. Right after the bill approval, the Ohio State Pharmacy Board will work on establishing the rules for licensing medical cannabis dispensaries, while the Ohio State Medical Board will determine how licensed doctors will qualify patients to apply for medical cannabis. In October, Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee appointed by the governor should help legislative leaders establish rules and regulations. By May 2017, Department of Commerce must set cultivator standards and determine the number of cultivator licenses.
Though the state residents will positively answer the question “Is marijuana legal in Ohio?” soon, it remains unknown when exactly Ohioans will get the real opportunity to treat their severe conditions with medical marijuana.