On Wednesday, June 8th, Ohio became the 25th state to legalize medical Cannabis after Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 523 into law. The resolution follows similar legislation recently enacted in Pennsylvania, and represents an inflection point in the ongoing crusade for full cannabis legalization nationwide. Today, half of the states in the Union recognize some form of legal cannabis, and a majority of the population—175 million people—have access to the substance in one form or another.
That said, the new law in Ohio contains a number of restrictions which have drawn criticism from the medical cannabis community at large. Like Pennsylvania’s recent measure, HB 523 prohibits patients from smoking cannabis or growing it at home. Ohioans with a recommendation can, however, obtain and consume the substance in vapor as well as through patches, oils, edibles, and other forms as approved by the State Board of Pharmacy.
The law will take effect on September 6th. Starting on that date, and until Ohio establishes its own cultivation system and regulatory framework, qualified patients will be able to buy and transport cannabis products from other states. Under this legislation, Ohio must make medical cannabis available in-state within two years. No information has been released about rules or license requirements for dispensaries, testing facilities, and other cannabusinesses.
As I continue to scrutinize HB 523, below is a summary of some of the legislation’s notable features:
- Qualifying conditions for medical cannabis patients include HIV/AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, fibromyalgia, Tourette’s syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), chronic pain, and several others. Patients seeking coverage for additional conditions can file formal requests with Ohio’s Medical Board.
- Medical cannabis recommendations are valid for up to 90 days, and subject to the Board of Pharmacy’s specifications on composition and THC content.
- Townships and municipalities are authorized to restrict the number of dispensaries or outright prohibit the sale of cannabis in their jurisdictions.
- Cannabusinesses must operate at least 500 feet away from any schools, religious buildings, and public facilities.
- Employers may continue to enforce drug-free workplace policies and terminate or discipline any employee for cannabis use on or off the job—even if the individual in question has a recommendation. These employees would not be eligible for unemployment compensation.
- Physicians must obtain Ohio State Medical Board certification before recommending medical cannabis, and must comply with ongoing education and reporting requirements.
Have a comment or question about this or any U.S. medical cannabis law? If you own or operate a business in an industry affected by this legislation, stay in touch with Offit Kurman’s Medical Cannabis Practice group. Visit our group page to receive updates about the latest legal developments, follow our articles, and join us for exclusive events and webinars. I also welcome you to contact me directly here, or through my attorney page.
ABOUT DARREN H. WEISS
Darren H. Weiss is a seasoned counselor and litigator who works with businesses to attract, maintain, preserve, and, if necessary, protect against their most valuable asset: employees. A passionate and experienced legal advocate, Mr. Weiss’s practice focuses on the medical marijuana industry and employment law. His employment practice spans from advice and counsel to defense of collective and class action litigation, charges of harassment and discrimination, and enforcement of restrictive covenants. His practice has a particular emphasis on wage and hour issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws and has clients in a wide variety of industries, including financial services, medical care, manufacturing, and professional services.
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