State Representative Kyle Koehler hosted an informational session Monday evening to explain the Substitute House Bill 523, which would allow those with chronic or terminal conditions to obtain cannabis oil for medical purposes. If approved, the laws governing medical marijuana dispensation would be strictly regulated, Koehler said, adding that it would likely be two years before the state’s first legal dose is prescribed.

Koehler explained that Ohio’s Speaker of the House first pledged to look into the legalization of medical marijuana after the issue was voted down by Ohioans last year. He said the previous movement to legalize medical marijuana was “a bad law” created by an independent out-of-state group that would have too easily allowed the drug to be used recreationally. He noted that the state would strictly regulate all medical marijuana if the bill is approved, and even be able to track the substance “from seed to sale,” Koehler said, meaning that every step in the process is documented, beginning before the seed is germinated, and ending when the patient purchases the drug at the dispensary.

Under the bill, persons with the following conditions could be prescribed a form of medical marijuana to treat their symptoms: cancer, Tourette’s Syndrome, seizure disorders, Parkinson’s Disease, traumatic brain injury, glaucoma, Chrohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, sickle-cell anemia, spinal cord disease and injury, forms of encephalopathy, lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis C.
The bill would also allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to people with “pain that is chronic, severe, or intractable,” which Koehler said he finds to be concerning.

“This scares me,” he said of the portion of the bill that would apply to those with severe and constant pain.
An audience member mentioned the amount of people who use pharmaceuticals for treatment of chronic pain, and though Koehler had pledged to present arguments for each point discussed, he said he agreed that he’d rather see patients prescribed medical marijuana instead of opiates.

The bill would create a Medical Marijuana Control Commission comprised of a physician, law enforcement official, employer representative, labor representative, pharmacist, patient advocate, and one representative each from a pro-marijuana advocacy group, alcohol and drug treatment facility, and a mental health treatment group. The commission will be responsible for licensing all doctors, growers, and dispensaries involved, as well as independent laboratories for testing the marijuana.

Koehler also noted that physicians who prescribe the drug must have established doctor-patient relationships. Under the bill, those physicians will be able to prescribe medical marijuana after an in-office visit, and then after a 90-day follow-up appointment, be permitted to prescribe doses again every 90 days for one year until the process would be repeated.

He said that the bill would allow local governmental municipalities like counties, cities, and townships to have their own say in whether or not a dispensary would be permitted within their jurisdictions. Koehler stressed that the state does not want to unfairly impose required acceptance of dispensaries in communities that oppose it, such as dry counties and those with large Mennonite or Amish populations.

Medical marijuana would be prescribed in the form of oil, tinctures, plant materials, edibles, and patches, but Koehler noted that it could not be consumed through the traditional method of burning and smoking the plant itself, although parts of the plant may be placed in a “vaporizer,” which extracts the medicinal parts of the plant without the smoke.

The bill would not allow medical marijuana to be distributed in any form that would be appealing to children, such as lollipops and gummy candies, Koehler said. Cultivators and dispensaries would not be permitted to advertise their products on radio or television, but billboards and other ads would still be permitted.

Koehler said he called the session one day before the state voted on the bill not to sway the bill itself, but to inform residents about what the bill can and cannot do. He stated that lawmakers spent more than 25 hours listening to testimony about all aspects of the 75-page bill in order to present a bill that accounts for all aspects of state medical marijuana. He noted that the extra effort spent in preparing the bill is imperative, as he did not want to see any mistakes leave irreparable effects on Ohio communities.

“Legalizing marijuana in Ohio,” Koehler said, adding: “Think about ten years down the road, think about the children and the future and what it could be like if we make the wrong decisions.”

"The FDA has failed to do their job by not reclassifying Marijuana as a schedule II narcotic. Ohioans for Medical Marijuana (OMM) is attempting to fill that void for their own gain and would allow growing and smoking marijuana at home. We cannot allow that in Ohio. There comes a time that we have to step up and lead in order to help parents like Tracey and Heather who both have children who are suffering from epilepsy. That is what I did today. I voted "Yes" on HB 523."

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