Hopefully, soon the question “Is weed legal in Ohio?” will be answered positively.
On Wednesday, Ohio lawmakers passed a marijuana bill that approved the use of the substance for medicinal purposes under certain circumstances. That happened six months after the voters in the Midwestern state rejected the idea of the recreational use of cannabis. Now, the bill has been sent to Gov. John Kasich for approval.
If the Republican Governor approves it, Ohio will become the 25th state (not counting Washington D.C.) in the United States (and the first one in the Midwest) to legalize the use of medical marijuana.
Bill 523 passed the Senate on an 18-15 vote, which was approved by both chambers of the state's Republican-led legislature. Following the state's representatives, the House voted 67-28 in favor of the Senate’s decision, which was viewed as a move to promote the proposed medical cannabis measure that proponents were trying to put on a ballot six months ago.
Starting in 2017, people suffering specific conditions—AIDS, cancers, chronic pain, inflammatory bowel diseases, glaucoma, Parkinson's disease, and other ailments—will be allowed to use infused oil, vapor, edibles, or tinctures prescribed by a physician licensed in the state. Growing and smoking the plant will be prohibited, unless it is authorized by the Board of Pharmacy. Patients will be able to possess marijuana for up to 90 days.
A special commission will be created and held responsible for regulating all operations with medical marijuana. The state will also regulate cannabis distribution and cultivation and require each dispensary to employ registered pharmacists. Employers who want to maintain drug-free workplaces will be provided with immunity.
Ohio senators agree that the state's legislation is not perfect and, furthermore, is more limiting than some, but this bill is what Ohio patients need. The state's Senator Kenny Yuko is confident that if they can ease just one patient's pain or save one child's life, this bill is worth it.
Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, also supports the bill and urges his colleagues to back up the measure. He noted that there was a provision calling on the federal government to remove the drug from its list of Schedule I dangerous substances.
At the same time, there are opponents of the measure, like Sen. Jay Hottinger and six other lawmakers from Southwest Ohio, who think that there is not enough medical marijuana research to approve legalizing, so expanding access may run too many risks. Rep. Margy Conditt said that he voted against the bill because he did not like the idea of creating an industry that could become a black market.
In a poll released in May, nearly 90 percent of Ohio residents supported the legalization of medical marijuana.