Ohio Medical Marijuana Bill Passes House, Moves To Senate
By Mike Perleberg
(Columbus, Oh.) – Ohio is a step closer to becoming the 25th state to legalizing some form of medical marijuana.
The Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 523 on a 71-26 vote Tuesday. Ohio Senate leaders say hearings on HB 523 will begin Wednesday.
The proposal would allow patients with chronic illnesses to smoke cannabis vapors to relieve pain and other symptoms. The bill would also create the nine-member Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Commission, which would be responsible for regulating and licensing seed-to-sale operations of the drug, such as cultivators, retail dispensaries, independent testing labs, processors and physicians. Doctors would be able to recommend marijuana for medicinal use, but would not be able to dispense it.
Additionally, the bill provides protections for businesses to allow employers to maintain drug-free policies in the workplace, ensuring the safety of all employees and the efficiency of the business as whole.
“House Bill 523 is all about the patients,” said Rep. Stephen Huffman, the bill’s sponsor and a practicing physician for more than 20 years. “I believe that this develops a great balance for the needs of patients, physicians, and the citizens of Ohio.
Huffman adds that HB 523 sets limits to avoid wider use of medical marijuana in Ohio. It would prohibit home-grown marijuana and smoking of the plant.
The legislation is an effort to stop a ballot issue legalizing medical marijuana from appearing on the statewide ballot in November’s general election. A ballot issue to legalize pot for recreational use failed miserably at the ballot box last November, however, polling shows Ohioans are much more open towards legalizing marijuana for medical use.
If the Senate approves the bill, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich could have it on his desk awaiting signature by the end of May.