By: Luke Byerly ~Managing Editor~
Ohio’s new medical marijuana law took effect on Sept. 8, leaving many questions and concerns about the industry unaddressed.
The new law states that patients with a license are allowed to possess and use the drug without penalty, but the law doesn’t specify where can be purchased the drug.
Because state dispensaries are not yet set up, patients would have to go to other states, like Michigan, with operational dispensaries. However, bringing marijuana across state borders is illegal regardless of the new law.
The law-making process further complicates matters as the outlines for prescribing, harvesting and distributing marijuana have yet to be established, and this process is estimated to take a full year. The deadline for these regulations is set for September of 2018.
The state medical board is also under pressure to set guidelines for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients, but the new law states that patients with AIDS, Alzheimer’s, cancer and pain that is chronic, severe or intractable can start using marijuana immediately.
“There’s a little confusion out there, so we’re essentially asking that physicians stand by until some of these issues are clarified and we can assure that they’re acting on the right side of the law,” Reginald Fields, a spokesman for the Ohio State Medical Association said.
Another repercussion of the law lies in the clash with federal positions on the drug. Because of federal laws against marijuana, banks are not able to provide services for money earned through the marijuana business.
“Banks would be money laundering for processing cash in any form from any marijuana-related business,” James Thurston, spokesman for the Ohio Bankers League said.
Thurston also commented that legally providing bank services to marijuana-related businesses would violate a multitude of federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, the Bank Secrecy Act and the Patriot Act. As a result, these businesses would be forced to handle their affairs using large sums of cash.
Ohio lawyers are also subject to some changes, as a rule was proposed to the Ohio Supreme Court in order to allow attorneys to counsel clients complying with the law without violating the rules of professional conduct. The rule addresses the current standing that advising marijuana-related businesses is unethical because of the federal government’s stance on the drug.
The new law calls for a Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee to be created in order to outline the new policies regarding the industry. The law gives 30 days from Sept. 8 for the appointees to be named.