Getting cannabis legalized anywhere other than the West Coast is proving to be a major challenge, even in states like Ohio that have already passed medical marijuana laws, but that are having tremendous problems getting them effectively implemented. Reports indicate that, despite going into effect on September 8, Ohio’s House Bill 523, which provisions for the legal use of medical marijuana throughout the state, patients still don’t have legal access to the plant or its derivatives, and nobody knows when they will.
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But many patients who need tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to treat their ailments are still out of luck, including in Ohio where the law states that they should be able to obtain it legally. It could be as soon as next year, or it could take all the way until 2018 – nobody knows, and this is the dilemma that ordinary citizens and lawmaking cannabis advocates face as they push forward towards implementing the new law.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, doctors throughout Ohio are permitted to recommend cannabis as a medicine to their patients, so long as the proper rules, regulations, permits, and licenses are in place. But that’s the problem: these laborious tasks have yet to be completed by state authorities, even though this is what taxpayers are paying them to do on behalf of the thousands, if not millions, of patients who are in dire need of legal access to cannabis.
“If any physician wishes to recommend medical marijuana before the rules are in place, we strongly recommend that they contact a private attorney,” Robert Giacalone, a member of the Ohio State Medical Board, announced at a recent board meeting.
Advocates have been pushing the board to utilize what they call an “affirmative defense” clause that would provide legal protection for doctors who choose to begin recommended medical cannabis now, before the final rules are in place. This would seem to be in line with the intent of H.B. 523, which grants immediate legal access to cannabis based on its verbiage. But the board hasn’t been too keen on making this a priority.
As for the patients whose doctors have already recommended medical cannabis, Rob Ryan, head of the cannabis advocacy group Ohio Patient Network, says that they should try to find other means of obtaining cannabis within the confines of what the law entails, which at the current time might mean having to consult the black market.
“There is no doubt in my mind that people with qualifying conditions should be able to get medical marijuana in Ohio,” Ryan told the Dispatch. As to where they can access it, he added that “it might be growing in your backyard or basement, from a family member or friend, or a dealer as a last resort. I’d be very careful going out of state.”
Sadly, both the State Medical Board and the Board of Pharmacy have been given the reigns to oversee Ohio’s medical marijuana law, which could mean that feet will be dragged and significant red tape put up to delay the implementation of easy-access dispensaries.
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