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WIRE: Ohio medical marijuana law launches today

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s new medical marijuana law launched on Thursday, September 8. Patients with qualifying medical conditions will receive limited legal protections from laws prohibiting marijuana possession, as several state agencies formally begin the process of establishing a regulated system of medical marijuana production and distribution.

“This is a major milestone in establishing a system that will help countless Ohioans who are suffering from serious illnesses,” said Aaron Marshall, the spokesperson for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind a proposed ballot initiative that inspired legislators to adopt House Bill 523. “It is one of the first steps on a long road to developing a well-regulated system. The real work of crafting the specific rules and regulations still lies ahead.”

“We are closely monitoring the development of Ohio’s medical cannabis system to ensure it will be a robust and transparent program,” Marshall said. “Our goal is to ensure that this effective medicine is available and affordable for seriously ill patients who desperately need it.”

Beginning today, Ohioans with qualifying medical conditions will be eligible for legal protection for possession of a 90-day supply of medical marijuana. Specifically, if they are charged with possession, they will be able to exercise an affirmative defense in court by presenting a written statement from their physician that shows:

  • the patient has a condition listed in Ohio’s medical marijuana law;
  • the patient and doctor have an ongoing physician-patient relationship;
  • the patient has been informed of the risks and benefits of medical marijuana, and the doctor indicated that the benefits outweigh the risks; and
  • the doctor has obtained a report from Ohio’s drug database showing other drugs prescribed to the patients over the past 12 months.

“A lot of patients have already begun to talk with their doctors about medical marijuana, and that will continue as the program rolls out,” Marshall said. “Right now, it is critical that the state medical board and the state pharmacy board provide clear guidance for physicians and their patients. Doctors need to know how they can serve those they assist, and need to understand the limits of the law. We hope that guidance will be available without delay,” he noted.

Many provisions in the new law defer key decisions about the program to various state agencies, which will begin developing rules in the coming weeks and months. That process is critical to the success of the program, and how agencies decide to manage particular aspects of the state system will have a profound effect on people’s lives, including both patient and physician requirements.

“Based on early signs we are seeing, we believe the state will adopt sensible rules and regulations to create a program that serves Ohio patients well in the long run. In the mean time, helping doctors and patients better understand the affirmative defense is an important early step,” Marshall said.

The issue enjoys overwhelming popular support. A May 2016 Quinnipiac poll found that 90% of Ohioans support allowing medical marijuana.

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