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Medical marijuana will be grown on up to 24 licensed sites statewide, subject to some of the highest fees in the country, under the final rules recently presented to legislators. The cultivator portion of the rules, which also details the application and license fees for retail dispensaries, product processors and testing labs, cleared the Ohio legislature’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review without objection from the panel.

The rules will be officially filed later this month and take effect before the May 6th statutory deadline. Rules and regulations for retail dispensaries, product processors and testing labs are still being revised, but must be in place by September 8th. Columbus attorney David Patton raised concerns about banning license applicants with criminal records. Ohio law allows people convicted of certain crimes, to be determined by regulators, to be eligible for marijuana business licenses if the offenses occurred more than five years prior.

Patton said the rules don’t set a hard line between which offenses qualify or disqualify someone and the state is setting itself up for a lawsuit. Under the rules, a first-degree misdemeanor conviction or guilty plea doesn’t “automatically disqualify” someone to obtain a license or work as a key dispensary employee if it occurred more than five years ago. Possessing more than 200 grams of marijuana, or a little over 7 ounces, is a felony charge in Ohio.

Patton recently said, “Nobody wants criminals involved in the medical marijuana program, but the fact is most of the people who understand this industry have been engaged in medical marijuana activities and recreational activities for decades.” Justin Hunt, chief operating officer for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, said the pertinent offenses are clearly listed in the rules.

Hunt stated, “The authority we have is broad to draft the rules; that help us establish a safe medical marijuana program and ensure a safe, consistent supply for the patients that will ultimately rely on this medicine.” Ohio’s medical marijuana law, passed in June 2016, allows people with one of 21 medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a physician. Most of the details about the program, such as who will grow and sell marijuana and how much patients can buy, were left to the commerce department, Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and Ohio State Medical Board.

The Department of Commerce plans to begin accepting applications for cultivator licenses in June, after a few weeks of answering questions from interested parties. Applicants must meet certain financial criteria, have local approval for their proposed site and submit security and quality assurance plans, among other requirements. The rules and regulations have not substantially changed in the five months since first proposed by the department, despite concerns about the pricey license fees and out-of-state investors having an advantage over Ohioans.

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Private Medical Marijuana labs are restricted from testing properties on the plant for one year, according to Ohio’s new law. During that time, public universities would test medical cannabis produced within the state to make sure it is safe for consumers. The problem is that no other state tests medical marijuana like this. That’s because many university officials are wary of losing money from a federal government that still labels cannabis as among the most dangerous, illegal drugs, at the same level as heroin.

Rob Ryan, executive director of the Ohio Patient Network and a Blue Ash councilman stated, “If there is no testing, then there is no program. We are very concerned.” Even if Ohio’s universities want to test medical cannabis, the cost is $2,000 for an application fee and an $18,000 fee to operate a testing lab. Those numbers could change before the rules are finalized by September. Buying testing equipment, cameras, and other tools would cost at least $1 million, depending on what the university already had in place, said Jeffrey Raber, CEO of The Werc Shop, which tests cannabis in California, Oregon, and Washington. And to buy equipment or finance lab work, professors often rely on grants, many of which come from government entities.

Other concerns include whether universities would have the capacity to handle all medical cannabis grown in Ohio or whether they can safely secure the plant to prevent theft. “There are too many unknowns to rely exclusively on learning institutions,” said Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, which pursued a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio in 2016 but dropped the idea after lawmakers passed their plan. “Private labs are in better positions to respond.” It is unclear whether any in-state, public universities are interested in laboratory testing. At this point, officials at University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, Cleveland State University, and Kent State University are not planning to provide laboratory testing of medical cannabis, spokespeople told The Enquirer. That could change, but universities in other states have avoided medical cannabis.

In Maryland, for example, only universities with academic medical programs were permitted to dole out cannabis. But none were interested so legislators reworked the program. University of Illinois’ Chicago campus announced in 2015 that they would start testing medical marijuana but shortly after, officials changed their minds. Kerry Francis, Ohio Department of Commerce spokeswoman stated, “We can’t speculate as to which universities will apply.” The Ohio Department of Commerce has not yet set a deadline for applications.

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Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is now devising protocol on who can recommend, dispense, and grow medical marijuana. Those involved in these decisions are spread across several government agencies. We know September 2018 is the cutoff to finish writing and getting these statutes into effect. Becoming a medical marijuana patient in Ohio is difficult in itself. Only 30% of physicians who took an Ohio Medical Board Survey said they were likely to prescribe marijuana to patients who qualify.

A positive point in this entanglement of administration is that patients can use medical marijuana obtained from other states. Luckily, neighboring Michigan has full reciprocity. Ohioans for Medical Marijuana spokesman Aaron Marshall stated, “If Ohio doctors aren’t willing to participate, others may move into the state to fulfill demand. The sad part of this process, being as slow as it is, is patients are being left to fend for themselves,”

The Ohio Department of Commerce is suggesting 24 initial grow locations. MMJ advocates are anxious that won’t be enough to begin serving the anticipated nearly 190,000 clients. Severe pain is among Ohio’s 20 qualifying conditions, which generally heightens the number of applicants.

Most would admit this is better than the declined 2015 ballot which suggested only 10 locations reserved for prosperous investors. However, no grower can own more than one site and they will be separated among different sections of the state. The Ohio Board Of Pharmacy is suggesting setting up 40 dispensaries by September 2018, with at least one nurse, pharmacist, physician or physician’s assistant on site.

Berman stated, “Ohio got in early enough to take advantage of the excitement the industry is building and the opportunity it creates for local investors and players to be part of the industry.” Draft rules for growers and dispensaries follow a trend in other legislative-led MMJ states.

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Even though Ohio’s newfound medical marijuana law will officially hit the books on Thursday, this holds little value for the patients who need immediate, legal access to the marijuana. No grow sites or marijuana shops are expected to get ready to work for another two years, which puts those people in the community who are enthusiastic in participating in the program in a tough position: Do we wait out the system, or get involved in the dangerous system of smuggling in marijuana from a legal state?

When Governor John Kasich signed his name onto House Bill 523 earlier this year, which made Ohio the 26th state in the nation to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana program, it came with a plan that allows the would-be-patients of the Buckeye State to obtain and use marijuana products from legal states-like neighboring Michigan.

The words chosen to create this law has confused many of the state’s residents, which can possibly lead to some people catching some heat from the federal government. While marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes in both Ohio and Michigan, traveling across state lines with any amount of a substance derived from the cannabis plant is a violation of federal law.

This means any patient from Ohio with the proper paperwork that is looking to obtain medicine from a source in Michigan stands the danger of being charged with federal drug trafficking once they pass the “Ohio Welcomes You” sign-a crime that, even for small amounts of marijuana, comes with a punishment of up to five years in prison and fines reaching $250,000.

While it is true that Ohio’s new medical marijuana law comes with an “Affirmative defense” clause for those patients with a recommendation provided by a state-licensed physician, it does not apply to those people under the wrath of federal prosecutors. Sadly, some legal experts have even suggested that the affirmative defense, which basically gives certified patients the right to argue medical necessity in a court of law, will not exactly prevent people from getting nailed to the cross in state court, either.

“The important thing to remember is this doesn’t mean you can’t be prosecuted,” Douglas Berman, a professor at The Ohio State University, told WCPO. “It just means if you are, this is the defense you can use in court to ask a judge to dismiss the complaint. It doesn’t mean you avoid the hassle of the courts.” Ohio patients also have the issue of cultivation to contend with.

Unlike other states that have legalized marijuana in one way or another, Ohio’s law does not come with a home grow provision that gives patients the freedom to cultivate their own medicine. The law only allows patients with approximately 20 particular conditions to use multiple cannabis products, including edibles, oils, and vapors. State officials are not expected to officially launch the state’s medical marijuana program until 2018.

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Sales of medical cannabis in Ohio has the potential to generate up to $400 million, making it one of the largest medical cannabis markets in the United States, according to a report by Marijuana Business Daily. The publication projects Ohio retail dispensary sales could range between at least $200 million and as high as $400 million, depending on once the state’s new medical cannabis program is up and running within the next couple of years.

It is estimated that the states are going to generate $23 million in sales tax revenue. The projections are based on Ohio’s qualifying medical conditions as well as business regulations and sales in other states. Chris Walsh, editorial director of Marijuana Business Daily, stated that the actual revenue is going to depend on how many patients register for the program as well as what rules are regulations are written up for businesses and physicians.

“Ohio would definitely be a powerhouse in the industry, and a lot of that is because of the state’s population and the inclusion of pain on the medical conditions list,” Walsh stated.

Under the new Ohio law, there are a list of twenty medical conditions that allow patients to have access to cannabis if it is prescribed to them by a doctor from Ohio. The law is going to go into effect on September 8th, however, rules and regulations including how cannabis growth and retail licenses are going to be distributed will not be known for at least a few months.

Ohio’s medical conditions list includes chronic, severe or intractable pain. In states that list pain as a condition, such as Colorado and Michigan, between one and two percent of the overall population register for the medical cannabis program. In Ohio, that would be between approximately 116,000 and 232,000 people. Colorado is close to the two percent mark and has about half the population of Ohio. Medical cannabis sales there generated $408 million in 2015 and recreational sales added up to $587.8 million.

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Unconstitutional portions of the Ohio medical marijuana law, which had set aside a percentage of the state’s pot licenses for minorities, were spotted during the legislative debate but it lacked necessary votes, a key lawmaker says. The law will take effect September 8th, pointing to a new panel that will begin laying out plans for how the new industry will work.

Changes may lead to a marijuana corrective bill, emerging in the lame duck session. The benchmarks are contained in the legislation, heading off the proposal to Ohio’s fall ballot. Ohio is the 25th state to legalize medicinal cannabis. At least 15 percent of Ohio’s cultivator, processor, retail dispensary and laboratory licenses is required to go to an economically disadvantaged minority group – African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or Native Americans – as long as an adequate number apply.

Minority Democrats had sought the provisions, with members of the committee feeling it was important to assure minority communities that had been disproportionally punished under existing marijuana laws saw some benefit when medical marijuana was legalized. However, racial preference rules are a violation of the U.S Constitution have generally failed to stand up in court. Legislators of both parties said that they were unaware of this.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, drafted an amendment that would have made the 15 percent a goal, as opposed to a requirement. It was never introduced because champions of the bill said it might derail the compromise that had been struck to get it passed. The legislation had cleared the Senate by three votes. Eleven Republicans had opposed the bill, while six Democrats supported it – three of them being members of the Black Caucus. Interviewed caucus members who had supported the bill stated it was a Democratic-backed package of additions that led their support, not solely the 15 percent license provision.

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A city in Ohio, Hamilton City, voted 5-1 during 2015 in order to effectively stop the city’s sale of medical cannabis. Cincinnati attorney Mike Allen states that this might be a legal problem since it will soon be legal in Ohio to prescribe medical cannabis in limited forms. The measure approved by Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, will make it so that cannabis cannot be smoked or grown at home, but instead can be taken in through different ways such as vaporizers and edibles.

At the start of 2015, the city of Hamilton discussed the cannabis ban. It was primarily a fight against an effort by the people of Ohio to legalize cannabis in the state. The initiative did not pass during the ballot in 2015. However, the law is still in the books. According to Allen, a municipal ordinance cannot conflict with state law, unless the municipality is a home rule city. It turns out that Hamilton is a home rule city, and because of that, “it gets a little bit dicier. It will end up being a court battle.”

“I think it’s problematic,” he stated. “I think the city of Hamilton will be hard pressed to justify banning the sale of all medical marijuana on a zoning basis.”

The mayor of Hamilton, Pat Moeller, stated that the problem has not been talked about by council because the bill was signed by Kasich very recently, but will not be enforced until September 6th. Moeller, an attorney, said he has not fully read the new law.

“We’re still learning about the regulations,” Moeller stated. “We’ll have to take a look at it and go from there.”

Allen added that “It will take some time for Ohio to become used to the new law. It’s going to be like anything else when there’s a new statute.”

 

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Approval of medicinal cannabis in Ohio has a ton of support from the public. If just the important members of the political process could get, and keep, reasonable measures on the table. Preferably, one measure. As indicated by open surveys, about three out of four Ohioans concur that being able to obtain marijuana for certain medical conditions ought to be a protected right; Yet at the end of the day—after bill from last year unfortunately was not approved—there are contending marijuana legalization proposals being sent around, bringing on perplexity and making shaky barriers.
What’s more than the various legalization bills locking horns, the Republicans in the House as of late presented a bill seen as oppressive against MMJ clients in the work place. Republican House Bill 523 proposes that businesses don’t need to cover an employee’s legitimate use of medicinal cannabis and does not prevent managers from terminating, or declining to contract, somebody because of their need to utilize medical marijuana.
“A person who is discharged from employment because of that person’s use of medical marijuana shall be considered to have been discharged for just cause,” the GOP Bill says.
Ohio Marijuana Policy Project’s proposed bill particularly expresses the inverse—medical cannabis use ought to neither change nor influence the occupation relationship between a private business and a worker. United Ohio, a coalition of cannabis activists, said the Republican proposition risks patients’ wellbeing at the impulse of “changes in a political party” and puts patients and guardians at danger for being put into jail.
Declarations spoken at a meeting of a few Ohio Chambers of Commerce safeguarded businesses’ strategies, including drug screenings. The chambers additionally look to guarantee that laborers let go due to MMJ-related infringement can’t get unemployment benefits. At the same time, as the medical marijuana fight seethes in Ohio, there are the individuals who have become sick of sticking around.

 

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Ohio looks as if it is going to become the twenty-fifth state to legalize medical cannabis, whether it is through a new state law or a voted constitutional amendment. State lawmakers, as well as two citizen advocacy groups, are working at the same time on proposals to bring cannabis as medicine to those living in Ohio with specific medical conditions. However, how the legislature and proponents approach the subject is entirely different, and the two cannabis supporting groups are introducing separate versions too. Here is a look at some important difference among the proposed bill (House Bill 523) the Marijuana Policy Project Amendment, and the Medicinal Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Amendment.

As for the impact, the bill would only change a law in Ohio, and both ballot proposals would amend the Ohio constitution. When it comes to cannabis in its smokable form, the legislation neither confirms nor denies it while both of the ballot issues allow it. Growing marijuana at home is not permitted under the legislation but is allowed with restrictions under both the ballot issues. The Marijuana Policy Project amendment would permit fifteen large cultivators and many small farmers, but the legislation and the cannabis and hemp amendment do not specify grower numbers.

In the legislation, there are no specific qualifying medical conditions for medical cannabis listed, but both amendments include a list of conditions and diseases that would allow someone to obtain medical marijuana. The legislation also lists out strict requirements for physicians that would need to be renewed every ninety days, but the two amendments do not have any requirements. According to the legislation, it would also provide a “safe harbor” for banks and financial institutions to avoid being charged for working with individuals in the cannabis industry. However, once more, neither amendment includes any sort of specific banking provision.

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