Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 523 into law today, putting to rest speculation on whether medical marijuana will be coming to the Buckeye State.
The bill marks a historic new chapter for the state, which has never had any form of legal medical cannabis, although the bill has been criticized by advocates as not going far enough for patients. The new law stipulates that qualified patients may possess only certain forms of medical cannabis, such as pills, oils, edibles, tinctures and raw flower, but prohibits the smoking of cannabis.
Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, a local cannabis group backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, announced several days after the bill sailed through the House on a 71–26 vote, that they would be abandoning their initial plan to gather the more than 300,000 signatures needed for a November push, despite objections to the bill’s finer details. The group admitted that the legislation was, however, "a step forward."
The bill has been sitting on the desk of Gov. Kasich since it cleared the House at the end of May and supporters wondered whether he would put his official seal of approval on the bill.
Indeed, Kasich signed the bill into law with no pomp or circumstance, opting out of a public ceremony, preferring instead to sign the bill along with dozens of others destined to become law.
The bill will go into effect within 90 days, making it legal to possess medical cannabis for qualified patients by September 6th, although the Ohio State Pharmacy board, the State Medical Board and the Department of Commerce will still be tasked with overseeing and regulating the system of dispensaries in the state. Dispensaries are not expected to be operational for about two years.
The bill will allow the use of medicinal cannabis by patients who suffer from the following qualifying conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy or other seizure disorders
- Hepatitis C
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Pain that is either:
- Chronic and severe
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sickle cell anemia
- Spinal cord disease or injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Ulcerative colitis
The bill will officially make Ohio the 25th U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana. That's right: Half of all states in the U.S. now have medical cannabis laws on the books.
Reactions to the signing of the bill show the mixed opinions from voters and politicians alike. The bill incited many debates on the topic among both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, but inevitably, they approved the bill in lieu of a more comprehensive proposal planned for the November ballot. Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay), who voted against the measure, worried that the law could lead to another opioid crisis. Meanwhile, families like Heather and Adam Benton, who moved to Colorado to treat their daughter's severe myoclonic epilepsy, just may be on their way home.