Medical marijuana bill passes Ohio House and Senate

Ohio's medical marijuana bill narrowly passed the Senate yesterday, clearing the last hurdle before it reaches Governor John Kasich. The bill has bipartisan sponsorship and had significant support from both parties in the House, but received much narrower support in the Ohio Senate, passing by only three votes, 18-15.

Stephen R. Huffman (R-Tipp City) served as the primary sponsor for HB523, which he introduced in the Ohio House this April. A few highlights of the bill, pulled from the most recent Legislative Service Commission analysis, include the following:

  • It provides for the legalization of medical marijuana for certain medical conditions.
  • It only permits certain forms of the drug, and specifically prohibits smoking it, but does allow vaporization.
  • It requires that the drug be recommended by a physician who has been specifically certified by the state Medical Board to do so.
  • It prohibits home-growing marijuana and requires that any entity that wants to cultivate or process marijuana be licensed by the Ohio Department of Commerce. Any retail dispensary must be licensed by the Board of Pharmacy.
  • It provides that these cultivators, processors and dispensaries can't be located within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground, or public park.
  • It allows municipal corporations and townships to pass regulations limiting the number of dispensaries or prohibiting them altogether.
  • The bill would not prevent employers from terminating an employee for marijuana use, even with a physician's approval, and would still allow zero-tolerance policies and drug-testing.
  • It would designate firing someone for marijuana use as "just cause," preventing that employee from obtaining unemployment compensation.

The qualifying medical conditions are as follows:

AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, 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 or 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.

The bill will now go to Governor Kasich for approval and signature. There is also a group in the state that is seeking to have a proposed constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana put on the November ballot. According to Cleveland.com, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana needs to collect 305,591 signatures by July 6 to get their measure on the ballot. Their proposal is broader than HB523 and would allow smoking marijuana in private areas and home growing the drug. It also includes a larger number of eligible medical conditions.

For more information about this issue, see these articles from The Columbus Dispatch and Cincinnati Enquirer. The bill itself, along with LSC analysis and status updates are available at the Ohio General Assembly website's page for the bill.