It’s the day many Ohio residents have been anticipating, the new medical marijuana law is officially in effect. Some are anticipating it for family members they say will benefit from it and others are still apprehensive about it.
“I’m not sure where this will take us since we’re in an epidemic of drug abuse locally, regionally and across the country,” Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Aaron Adams said. “My fear is more experimentation. There will be more of it available for that purpose. We hope we can do some research and find some good reasons we can use it effectively.”
Patients with qualifying medical conditions will receive limited legal protections from laws prohibiting marijuana possession, as several state agencies formally begin the process of establishing a regulated system of medical marijuana production and distribution. However, the city of Portsmouth adopted a resolution creating a six month moratorium on processing marijuana.
“The governor signed the bill into law back in June, effective Sept. 8, that legalizes medical marijuana,” Portsmouth Solicitor John Haas told the Daily Times in August. “The state is required to draft rules and regulations with respect to the cultivation, processing and dispensing of marijuana. Those rules have not yet been written.”
Haas said it is difficult for cities to design their ordinances and issue permits without guidance from those who created the law to begin with.
“A lot of cities around the state are doing these moratoriums to allow the state to finish up their rule making process so we know what we’re working with,” Haas said.
Some people see it as a move forward.
“This is a major milestone in establishing a system that will help countless Ohioans who are suffering from serious illnesses,” Aaron Marshall, the spokesperson for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind a proposed ballot initiative that inspired legislators to adopt House Bill 523, said. “It is one of the first steps on a long road to developing a well-regulated system. The real work of crafting the specific rules and regulations still lies ahead.”
Many provisions in the new law defer key decisions about the program to various state agencies, which will begin developing rules in the coming weeks and months. That process is critical to the success of the program, and how agencies decide to manage particular aspects of the state system will have a profound effect on people’s lives, including both patient and physician requirements.
“You really worry about our young people who are involved in something else. You worry about it as a gateway drug like alcohol has been,” Adams said. “So we have several things to be concerned about. We’re always hoping the best when something like that happens. I think the intention was to try to find the good side of this before it became available for more abuse and misuse.”
The issue enjoys overwhelming popular support. A May 2016 Quinnipiac poll found that 90 percent of Ohioans support allowing medical marijuana.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.