Medicinal marijuana legalization requires substance reclassification

On Wednesday, June 8, Gov. John Kasich quietly signed House Bill 523, which legalized medical marijuana for the state, making it the 25th state in the nation to have medical marijuana.

The bill passed in the General Assembly by differing margins: It passed in the Senate 18-15 and in the House 67-28.

The legislation comes after ResponsibleOhio’s Issue 3 failed during last November’s election, where the legalization for both medical and recreational marijuana was up to the people to decide whether or not they would want 10 cultivators controlling over 1,000 dispensaries.

The bill will allow physicians to prescribe marijuana alternatives to patients who have one of the multiple ailments listed in the law.  The law will go into affect in less than 90 days, with the hopes of having marijuana plants being cultivated in the state within a year.

Under this law, smoking and growing marijuana will still be illegal, but alternatives such as oils, patches, edibles and vapors will be legal.

Currently, there are 20 medical conditions on the list that will allow people to obtain prescriptions for medical marijuana. Some of these include epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain that is either severe or intractable.

More ailments can be added to the list with approval.

Three boards will be overseeing and writing the laws pertaining to medical marijuana: the Department of Commerce, the Ohio Pharmacy Board and the Ohio Medical Board. The new law will also create a panel of 12 people to help advise the departments for the rules that are being formulated.

So what does this mean for the average Ohio citizen?

For starters, this new law does not hold any protections against employers taking action against employees for using marijuana medicinally.

If you have one of the 20 ailments currently on the list, you’re in luck! Come September, you will be able to receive a prescription from an authorized physician. Unfortunately, with the laws taking effect in 90 days, cultivation starting within a year, with products hoping to be tested in as early as 16 months, patients will have to receive their medical marijuana products from neighboring states, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Keep in mind, marijuana in all forms is still illegal at the federal level. Traveling with marijuana or marijuana byproducts across state lines could cause someone to be prosecuted on federal drug trafficking charges.

But now that half of the states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana medicinally, it is time for the Drug Enforcement Agency to stop procrastinating on the reclassification of marijuana and start working toward doing so.

Presently, marijuana is a Schedule I, which means it has no medical benefits and it is highly addictive. This labeling over the course of the last 20 years has become very outdated.

With the Schedule I labeling comes the inability to research more freely. Currently, the plant can only be obtained for research through one government garden and special grants have to be given in order for the research to be able to take place.

The DEA considers reclassifying drugs annually, but has been reluctant to reschedule marijuana since classifying it as Schedule I in 1970, and have declined on multiple occasions to reclassify it.

The DEA decided in May to consider reclassifying marijuana by the end of summer, but summer has started and we are approaching Independence Day.

With half of the nation, including Washington DC, now legalizing the plant medically, we cannot afford to keep marijuana at the classification it is without being able to have the proper research on it.

This story has been edited and revised by the original author.
The original edition of this column appeared in the independent student publication, The BG News, which can be found here.

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