Ohio’s medical cannabis law takes effect today, despite an unclear road forward for getting patients legal access to their medicine, according to an Associated Press report.
The Ohio medical cannabis program was established by state lawmakers and signed into law in June by Gov. John Kasich after it became clear that voters would likely do it themselves via voter initiative in November.
The new law allows medical cannabis treatment for individuals suffering from a variety of ailments, including AIDS, Alzheimer’s, cancer, as well as chronic, severe, and/or intractable pain. Medical cannabis patients are not allowed to smoke their medicine in Ohio, however, and are required to consume it as a tincture, edible product, transdermal patch, or inhale it as a vapor.
The law also requires government officials to create regulations for an industry that will serve the needs of medical cannabis patients. That industry, however — and the regulations to govern it — will not be lawfully required until 2018. Experts predict it may take a year for the rule-making process alone, followed by a licensing process that will likely last many more months.
In the meantime, it remains unclear how patients are expected to access their medicine. Though treatment itself is no longer illegal, patients will be unable to prove that they are allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes until medical cards are issued. It was recently revealed that patients caught with cannabis and arrested for it by law enforcement during this interim period may be able to claim an “affirmative defense” to avoid punishment, assuming they were arrested with something that would be considered “medical cannabis” under the new law.
“The law is here — but that doesn’t mean that patients are going to be able to get marijuana any time soon,” Aaron Marshall of Ohioans for Medical Marijuana said in the AP report.
Doctors and other medical professionals are also facing uncertainties about the legality of recommending medical cannabis to patients. Reginald Fields, a spokesman for the Ohio State Medical Association, said that the organization is, “asking physicians to stand by until some … issues are clarified and we can assure they’re acting on the right side of the law.”
About a dozen communities in Ohio have already passed local ordinances against the medical cannabis industry. An effort to legalize recreational cannabis in Ohio failed last November, due in part to claims that the proposed law would lead to a marijuana monopoly.
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