“To say that medical marijuana is legal in the state of Ohio is not really a true sentence,” Nicole Scholten said. “To say that the first steps of the law take effect today is a true statement.”
As of Thursday, September 8, 2016, Ohio became the 25th state to make marijuana legal for certain medical conditions. Many Ohio residents, including doctors and police officers, have no idea how the new law will work. The biggest concern is that patients have no legal way to obtain the newly legalized marijuana.
Scholten tells WLWT5:
I want to make sure that everyone who might potentially benefit from medical cannabis, I want them to really understand the nitty gritty of what is true for them today and what is not true for them today. To say that medical marijuana is legal in the state of Ohio is not really a true sentence. To say that the first steps of the law take effect today is a true statement. I think that everyone knows, every elected official already knows that folks will still be using black markets.
Ohio House Bill 523, the bill legalizing medical marijuana, does define some essential legal guidelines. Since the state is yet to finalize the new system, possessing marijuana is in a quasi-gray area. Medical patients can be in possession of the substance if they satisfy several requirements. In order to legally posses marijuana, patients must have a doctor’s note indicating a medical need for marijuana; they must have a previously established relationship with said doctor; and that the patient has to have been medically diagnosed with the noted condition.
The law allows people with listed conditions — including AIDS, Alzheimer’s, cancer, PTSD and pain — to start using marijuana immediately.
Aaron Marshall, of Ohioans for Legal Medical Marijuana says “The reality is that, right now, there are Ohioans that are using marijuana for medical purposes. They’re just doing it illegally. They’re getting it from the black market or from their friends or wherever,” he said. “I know there are a lot of moving pieces, but that’s going to be how it continues until these rules are put in place.”
Regardless of the currently instated guidelines, the state Medical Board is yet to establish a system for doctors. Reginald Fields, a spokesman for the Ohio State Medical Association said “Doctors really are in limbo, There’s a little confusion out there, so we’re essentially asking physicians to stand by until some of these issues are clarified and we can assure they’re acting on the right side of the law.”
The state has a two-year deadline on implementing the new medical program. Legalization advocates, however, believe there is no reason the process would be so lengthy. Scholten hopes government officials will work as quickly as possible.
One cannabis advocacy group, the Ohio Cannabis Association, issued a statement about House Bill 523.
While the new law includes affirmative defense provisions which would essentially give patients an excuse if caught possessing medical marijuana, in their current form these provide little or no practical protection to patients. Under the requirements, the patient must obtain a complicated statement from a licensed physician authorizing them to use medical marijuana. With so much uncertainty, it would be difficult if not impossible to get such a letter and there remains no way for patients to legally obtain medical marijuana since the state has not yet developed to the rules to grow or distribute it.
Patients are urged to keep their distance from possessing medical marijuana currently. However, Scholten does encourage users to be prepared by bringing up the topic with their doctors. Illegally obtaining the plant only muddies the waters, advocates state.