Home Legislative How Far Has Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Program Come?

How Far Has Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Program Come?

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The road to medical cannabis has been a long one for patients in Ohio, and most of them aren’t near the end just yet. The medical marijuana program approved by the state legislature in the aftermath of the crushing defeat suffered by Issue 3 – a measure that would have legalized adult-use and medicinal cannabis in the state – still struggles in many ways.

“Delays in processing and dispensary licensing approval has…caused patients to suffer,” Robert Ryan, President of Queen City Hemp, told The Marijuana Times. “This year, we are approaching the 4 year anniversary of the signing of House Bill 523 and the program is still trying to get off the ground. From a business perspective, I’d say it’s running at less than 50% capacity. Not to mention about half the patients who have been recommended marijuana have not even gone to a dispensary.”

One of the problems, Robert told us, is that the state needs to add more qualifying conditions to the program. “We have been supporting Ohio Patient Network’s efforts to add addiction to the list, but to date, no additional conditions have been added to the program,” he said.

For patients who qualify under the current list of conditions, Robert said the biggest pain point they “have right now is the cost and access to convenient dispensary locations.” Robert worries that with big neighboring states like Michigan and Illinois legalizing for adult-use, the potential for Ohio’s medical cannabis program could be further curbed by patients leaving the state in search of quality medicine they can purchase legally.

“My hope is that adding conditions and expanding the program will give Ohio businesses a fighting chance to survive long-term,” Robert told us. “As we move towards furthering social acceptance of cannabis, I believe we will start to see less restrictions on the sale of it. I am hopeful that Ohio’s program can be successful, but there needs to be a stronger push to get it there.”

Unfortunately, patients in Ohio face major roadblocks when it comes to expanding the state’s fledgling medical marijuana program. For one, Governor Mike Dewine has shown himself to be quite hostile to cannabis law reform in general, recently drawing a line in the sand when it comes to adult-use legalization. Marijuana being legal for all adults would go a long way toward bringing more access to patients. In any case, he will be of little help when it comes to growing the medical marijuana program itself.

Another problem seems to be the way most lawmakers approach medical marijuana. For many, it’s enough that a program exists and some patents are finding relief. They fail to see the immense variety of conditions that cannabis treats. It’s not just helpful to terminal patients or those who find no other treatment that works for them; it allows millions of people in this country to manage their daily lives in ways they simply could not without cannabis.

Medicine should be the choice of the patient, in consultation with medical professionals if they so choose. The notion that strangers who are not affected by the decision at all and who face no consequences for the decision get the final say in what medicine someone ingests is something I’ll never understand nor abide. 

Medical decisions for people in Ohio shouldn’t be made by the Governor or state legislature. The fact that they are is one of the many lingering destructive side effects of 8+ decades of prohibition and the stigma created around cannabis.

Patients have to fight for what should already be theirs: sovereignty over their own body and what medicines they choose to ingest.

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