Ohio Decriminalization Restricts Medical Marijuana


Ohio’s move to decriminalize and legalize marijuana has brought about more restrictions on its medical use. The Ohio Legislature’s medical marijuana law went into effect on September 8, 2016, bringing important but limited new protections for patients.

But even then, the implementation of this law is said to start in at least a year and at most two years given the fact that the formal rule-making process by the three government agencies (Department of Commerce, State Pharmacy Board, State Medical Board) and a yet to be appointed bipartisan advisory committee involved in the program and the roll out of the formal system are said to be established in late 2017 or the following year. This means the patients will have to wait and only then will they have safe, regulated access to medical cannabis and complete legal protections.

Following the implementation of the law, patients in Ohio may qualify for a provision called the affirmative defense. This particular provision provides a legal defense to a citation for marijuana possession, if the patients meets several important requirements like a written statement from a physician.

However, the medical marijuana law in Ohio does not provide access to medical marijuana, which has raised several flags among people in the state.

Limitations of the law

Although medical marijuana was legalized in Ohio, it is way far from anyone lighting up a joint whenever they please. As a matter of fact, the law explicitly prohibits smoking marijuana or growing it at home. It however allows vape marijuana products to be sold like marijuana-infused edibles, tinctures, oils, patches and plant material.

The affirmative defense therefore will only protect patients using one of the forms described in the law. It will only apply if the patient’s physician has certified, in writing that the patient has been diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition, the physician has gone over the risks and benefits to using medical marijuana and the physician thinks the benefits of the patient using marijuana outweigh its risks.

While in anticipation of the final list of approved forms and methods of using medical marijuana that are to be decided later by Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, the biggest worry for so many citizens in Ohio is that the law is silent on where the patients are supposed to get their marijuana.

Law makers have said that until the state’s dispensaries are set up, residents can travel to Michigan or other legal marijuana states and bring marijuana back, but, this would violate federal law as well as a key provision of the federal government’s hands-off approach to regulating state medical marijuana programs and hence punishable, leaving the patients a rather limited or no option for access. So most people will likely buy marijuana through Ohio’s existing black market.

Qualifying medical conditions

Patients qualify if they have the following debilitating conditions: HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Cancer, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Crohn’s disease, Epilepsy or another seizure disorder, Fibromyalgia, Glaucoma, Hepatitis C, Inflammatory Bowel disease, Multiple Sclerosis, pain that is chronic, severe, and intractable, Parkinson’s disease, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Sickle cell anemia, Spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis. There is a clause in the law allowing individuals to petition the state medical board to add conditions.

According the Ohio medical marijuana law, doctors must register with the state, which will require completing some type of continuing education about cannabis, before being able to recommend marijuana to patients with whom they have bona fide relationships. The patients are to be registered through a process that would be determined by the Ohio State Pharmacy Board.

Details about license requirements and applications for testing labs and marijuana processors, which will make marijuana-infused products and package everything for sale are not yet known but said to be determined by September 2017.

In addition, the law requires 500 feet between any marijuana business and a school, church, public library or public playground also giving power to the local governments to restrict where cultivators, processors and dispensaries can be located or ban them altogether.


Ohio is one of the states with the least punishments for the illegal possession of marijuana with 100 grams possession considered a minor misdemeanor. However, on several occasions, Courts have consistently upheld employers’ right to fire employees for marijuana use, even when it didn’t happen on the job.

The law goes ahead to allow firing of employees for marijuana use even if it was recommended to them by a doctor especially if the employer has a drug-free workplace or zero tolerance policy in place.

Looking at the bright side, marijuana is finally legal in the state of Ohio and although many people in Ohio do not think it is fair, at least they believe that it’s a start and remain hopeful. Many important policy decisions that will directly affect the success or failure of the system are yet to be made.

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