Of Course There Are Two Medical Marijuana Initiatives For Ohio


A couple of weeks ago, Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) announced the details of their planned medical marijuana initiative for the state of Ohio. The Buckeye State had infamously rejected legalizing recreational and medical marijuana last year because Nick Lachey might get rich, but within that electoral drubbing was the polling information that showed overwhelming support for medical marijuana.

MPP’s initiative is largely cut-and-paste from some of the better medical marijuana laws they’ve been successful in passing throughout America. But there are a few stinkers in there from some of their lesser medical marijuana laws as well.

  • Patients would qualify for a medical card with any of the “Big Eight” conditions most states recognize (cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, cachexia, seizures, spasms, pain, and nausea) as well as PTSD, Alzheimer’s agitation, ALS, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
  • Registered cardholders could possess 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana, cultivate (or have a caregiver cultivate) at least six plants (they could raise that limit) and possess all the usable marijuana harvested from them at the grow site.
  • The state will come up with limits for other cannabis products, like edibles and extracts.
  • Only one caregiver can grow at any one address, and he or she must be an Ohio resident.
  • Caregivers can only serve up to five patients, unless he or she is working as a caregiver in an assisted-living facility.
  • Registry cards cost no more than $40 per year, with lower-cost cards for low-income patients.
  • There will be reciprocity for medical marijuana cards issued from other states.
  • Until registry cards are issued, patients have an affirmative defense to marijuana charges as soon as the law goes into effect.
  • Medical cardholders cannot “be denied any right or privilege” for medical cannabis use, and they cannot be discriminated against in housing*, education*, child custody, and medical procedures, such as organ transplants.
  • Nursing homes and hospices have to allow some sort of patient access to medical cannabis*.
  • Cardholders are specifically protected from search and seizure solely for being cardholders and being a cardholder is no sort of probable cause or reasonable suspicion for police to investigate.
  • There would be a new Marijuana Control Division to establish rules on safety, packaging, labeling, inspection, testing, marketing, and advertising of medical cannabis. They’ll control licensing of the medical cannabis industry and favor those who help provide medicine to financially-needy patients and promote investment in communities of color.
  • There would be up to fifteen Type 1 Growers, who pay a $500,000 fee to cultivate up to 25,000 square feet of canopy space, and an unspecified number of Type 2 Growers, who pay a $5,000 fee to cultivate less than 5,000 square feet.
  • Production (processing), testing, distribution (wholesaling), and dispensary (retailing) licenses also cost $5,000.
  • Cardholders could not process their own hydrocarbon or carbon dioxide extracts without a commercial processor’s license.
  • Dispensaries will have to maintain internal, confidential tracking of patient purchases to ensure they don’t sell them more than the 2.5 ounces allowed per two-week period.
  • You can own any or all of the licenses, except testers can only be testers, and cultivators can only own one cultivation license.
  • Licensees must be Ohio residents from before January 1, 2016, but that residency requirement ends in 2020.
  • Licensees generally can’t have felony convictions within the past five years, unless they were for things made legal by this medical marijuana law.
  • Licensees can’t co-locate with a doctor who writes recommendations for medical cannabis.
  • Licensees must be at least 500 feet from schools, churches, libraries, playgrounds, and parks, but localities could increase that distance requirement.
  • Localities could only enact restrictions on time, place, and manner of medical marijuana establishments. Outright bans of dispensaries would require a majority vote of the people.
  • The Ohio legislature can’t come up with sneaky ways to undermine the amendment.

MPP’s got the funding and the experience. They’ve passed several medical marijuana laws; this one is one of their better iterations and would be the best medical marijuana law east of the Mississippi. They’ve hired three longtime local activists from NORML, the Ohio Rights Group, and the former Issue 3 campaign. They’re proposing a law far better than what the Ohio legislature offered: a cannabidiol, no-whole-plant medical marijuana proposal.

So, of course, MPP’s plan is terrible and must be dropped in favor of a competing, grassroots initiative that promises to legalize medical marijuana the right way.

Grassroots Ohio announced they are proposing their own amendment to legalize medical marijuana, which their spokesperson, Cassie Young, said is “intentionally brief”. (This comports with recent True Legalization™ criticism of California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act as being “too long” at 62 pages.) “We shouldn’t be putting regulations in our constitution,” Young told Cleveland.com. “The amendment is about protecting inherent rights of Ohioans – not enshrining business interests.”

The boogeyman of the wrong people making money on marijuana reform was the scare tactic that undermined the legalization campaign (as well as an ill-advised mascot) in Ohio last year. It’s no surprise, then, to learn the mastermind behind the Grassroots Ohio one-page medical marijuana amendment was one of the most vocal critics of last year’s Issue 3, “GW Pharmaceuticals Founder” Don Wirtshafter.

Here’s what the Grassroots Ohio initiative proposes:

  • People the “age of majority” (aged 18 and older) can use, possess, cultivate, process, and share cannabis for medical purposes.
  • People under age 18 can use cannabis for medical purposes if a doctor says so.
  • Everybody can grow, process, and sell industrial hemp.
  • Hydrocarbon extraction, edibles production, commercial cultivation, and retail sales may be taxed and shall be regulated by the state.
  • People aged 21 and older can get licenses in the medical cannabis industry.
  • You still can’t endanger others, engage in malpractice, or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of cannabis, but…
  • Evidence of active or inactive metabolites** is not evidence of being under the influence of cannabis.
  • You still can’t smoke in public places.

That’s it. What condition qualifies you for this medical use? Apparently, it’s your belief that your cannabis is for medical use. The only requirement for a physician’s approval is for people under aged 18.

How much cannabis can you grow in your backyard for medical purposes? How much usable cannabis can you keep on hand? It doesn’t say; apparently, it is limitless.

Those medical rights “shall not be infringed” and active THC isn’t evidence of impairment, so does that mean the 18-year-old who believes he needs cannabis for anxiety and is carrying a quarter-pound of it while puffing a joint and driving is safe from any police interference?

The heart part of me loves this Grassroots Ohio initiative. No doctor’s notes, age 18 and up, toking and driving is legal, what’s not to love?

But the head part of me says there is no way in hell Ohioans would vote for such a measure, especially after the easy attack ads it would summon.

And the practical part of me says that this is yet another case where there’s a professional, national, funded, moderate reform initiative with a decent chance of making the ballot and passing being “primaried” once again by a grassroots, local, unfunded, True Legalization™ initiative with a tenuous chance of making the ballot and zero chance of passing.

* Caveat: they can discriminate if not doing so causes them to break a federal law or lose a benefit under federal law (like a grant or a contract).

** There is no such thing as an “active metabolite”. If THC has been metabolized, it is inactive. In fact, “inactive metabolite” is redundant. There is THC (a molecule that active in influence over human physiology) and THC-COOH (a metabolite that is inactive in influence). Well, I was wrong about this! As reader Matthew Meyer points out: 

Russ, in your rush to pick nits you have erred. It appears there is, indeed, such a thing as “active metabolites” of cannabis:

“11-Hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC) is the main active metabolite of THC which is formed in the body after cannabis consumption.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/11-Hydroxy-THC

So our bodies apparently do transform the THC into another substance that is active, hence “active metabolite.”