OH: State Puts $1.8 Million Behind Medical Marijuana Enforcement

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Columbus – The state of Ohio agreed today for the first time to put money, $1.8 million, behind its commitment to allow the legal use of marijuana within its borders for medical use only.

House Bill 523, signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in June, will take effect on Sept. 8, starting the process of as long as two years to put together the licensing and regulatory state infrastructure that will operate the program.

The Ohio Controlling Board, the bipartisan budgetary panel consisting of lawmakers and one Kasich representative, voted unanimously and without comment to release just over $1.8 million requested by the Department of Commerce and Ohio Pharmacy Board.

The law did not include appropriations to help the agencies fulfill their missions.

Commerce requested $923,000 for its role of licensing pot growers, processors, and testing laboratories that will make up the supply side of the equation.

The pharmacy board requested $882,400 for its role on the demand side – licensing the dispensaries, registering patients and their caregivers, operating a temporary,14-member committee that will advise regulators, and upgrading the state’s existing automated system that tracks prescriptions.

The Ohio Medical Board, which will certify the doctors who participate in the process, has yet to request an appropriation.

The assumption is that the program, once running, will rely on various licensing fees on related businesses to fund its operations.

The law allows those suffering from one of nearly two dozen diseases or chronic conditions to seek recommendations from their physicians to use marijuana in oil, patch, tincture, plant matter, or vapor form.

The law specifically prohibits the smoking and home-growing of pot.

The Department of Commerce must have rules in place for would-be cultivators by next May. By September 2017, the three agencies must have adopted the rest of their respective rules. Otherwise, the law requires the program to be in full operation within two years, although the bill’s backers say it could happen sooner if all goes smoothly.

Commerce said it needs the initial funds for the hiring of five additional staffers, training, research, and a new database.

The department recently advertised for a contractor with “specialized industry knowledge,” including best practices employed in other states, to help it write the rules for cannabis cultivators. It has set aside a budget of $50,000 for the contractor’s work.

Pharmacy plans to hire an attorney to coordinate the program for the board, a legal assistant, the 14 advisory committee members, a licensing supervisor, a fiscal analyst, and two licensing coordinators.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court last week decided to look into its own ethical rules for attorneys operating under the new law.

A non-binding advisory opinion of the independent Board of Professional Conduct recently said lawyers cannot advise clients to engage in an activity that remains a federal crime, despite what the state has done. It also advised Ohio lawyers not to personally use medical marijuana.

The court has directed its staff to draft a proposed amendment to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct that would clarify what services attorneys could provide clients under the state law.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: State Puts $1.8 Million Behind Medical Marijuana Enforcement
Author: Jim Provance
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Photo Credit: Reuters
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