On May 26, the Ohio General Assembly approved House Bill (HB) 523, a bill that authorizes use of medical marijuana in Ohio. The bill is on its way to Governor John Kasich’s desk to be signed into law. Once signed, Ohio will become the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana.
The Republican-controlled Senate only approved the bill with a three vote margin (18 to 15). The Ohio House concurred with Senate amendments to the bill in a whirlwind of legislative activity that preceded the Ohio General Assembly’s summer recess. Medical marijuana was an issue lawmakers wanted to settle before they recessed because they hope to avoid a more sweeping marijuana issue appearing on the statewide ballot this coming November.
Legislators, while not entirely comfortable with legalizing medical marijuana, saw public polling which reflected that nearly 90% of Ohioans support medical marijuana. They also heard emotional testimony from sick and disabled Ohioans who felt that medical marijuana had helped or would help them. Lawmakers were also extremely sensitive to the threat of a constitutional ballot issue on marijuana appearing on the statewide ballot in November. State statute can be amended much more easily, if necessary, than the Ohio constitution can be amended.
- Forbids home-grown marijuana
- Requires that only a licensed physician can prescribe the drug
- Supports reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule II drug which would lift some restrictions that hamper additional clinical research
- Specifically lists allowable conditions for which marijuana can be prescribed – acquired immune deficiency syndrome; Alzheimer’s disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; cancer; chronic traumatic encephalopathy; crohn’s disease; epilepsy or another seizure disorder; fibromyalgia; glaucoma; hepatitis C; inflammatory bowel disease; multiple sclerosis; pain that is either chronic and severe, intractable; parkinson’s disease; positive status for HIV; post-traumatic stress disorder; sickle cell anemia; spinal cord disease or injury; tourette’s syndrome; traumatic brain injury; and ulcerative colitis.
On May 27, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, a group affiliated with the Marijuana Policy Project, announced that they were discontinuing efforts to collect signatures to have a marijuana initiative placed on the November 2016 statewide ballot.