Ohio's medical marijuana effective date doesn't mean much for patients yet

Published: Sep. 6, 2016 at 3:50 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2016 at 4:17 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Ohio's Medical Marijuana Bill becomes a law on Sept. 8, 2016 but don't expect to get a medical marijuana recommendation from a physician any time soon.

House Bill 523 has some confusing contradictions. You can possess and use marijuana when purchased from a legal dispensary, but, even though the law goes into effect Thursday, those dispensaries won't be set up for at least a year, and many cities are scrambling to prevent dispensaries from popping up in their borders.

Lawmakers suggest that medical marijuana users travel to other states where dispensaries are set up, like Michigan or Colorado, and bring the drug back with them, but lawyers have said that this would violate state and federal laws. And, even if you have your doctor's permission to use medical marijuana, your employer can still fire or discipline you for testing positive for the drug.

One other area of concern has arisen for lawyers. By their professional code, lawyers are not allowed to advise their clients to engage in any illegal activity. Medical marijuana use and distribution, while now legal in Ohio under the state's regulations, is still illegal under federal law, which makes assisting clients under Ohio's new law a grey area for attorneys.

The issue, which has been faced by attorneys in many states that have legalized medical marijuana, was brought up in an opinion from the Board of Professional Conduct released on Aug. 5.

The Supreme Court announced in August that it would prepare a draft amendment aimed at clarifying this gray area.

The state's Medical Board, Pharmacy Board, and Department of Commerce are all working on elements of the plan to execute the law. The Ohio House is currently taking applications for a panel to help establish rules and regulations.

The three state organizations involved have until next September to write the rules. Those will determine which physicians can write recommendations, and what conditions they'll need to meet to be eligible to apply for the certification to write recommendations for medical marijuana. They will not be prescriptions, as medical marijuana is not regulated by the FDA.

The state is currently conducting research and getting input from other states as they form the rules.

It's yet to be determined if they'll be limiting the number of physicians who can write medical marijuana recommendations. For information on which patients, with which conditions will be eligible for such recommendations, click here.

There will also be a petition process for patients who don't fall in to one of these categories, but would like to get a medical marijuana recommendation.

The Ohio Department of Commerce will be overseeing the process from seeds, to growing, cultivating, packaging and transportation. The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy will oversee dispensaries and patients, who will need to qualify for medical marijuana recommendations.

The State Medical Board of Ohio will handle qualifying physicians to certifications to recommend medical marijuana, and petitions to add new conditions.

Sources say it will likely be September of 2018 before this law and its rules will be fully operational.

RELATED: Ohio Supreme Court looks to clarify medical marijuana laws for attorneys

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