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Medical marijuana law now in effect in Ohio, but many questions remain

Despite the fact the Ohio's medical marijuana law went into effect earlier this month, it may be quite a long time until needy patients - including those suffering from cancer, AIDS, HIV and other serious conditions - obtain access to the drug.

In fact, not only may it take up to a year before the rules governing the production, prescription and distribution of medical marijuana are finalized, but a recent announcement by the State Medical Board of Ohio has also essentially nullified the affirmative defense contained within Ohio's medical marijuana legislation.

Understanding the 60-day affirmative defense for medical marijuana

Perhaps because lawmakers recognized that it would take some time to establish Ohio's medical marijuana system, they included provisions in the law that would allow patients to raise an affirmative defense to marijuana possession for a period of time after the legislation went into effect, but only if the patient's physician issued him or her a written recommendation certifying that:

  • The patient has a qualifying medical condition
  • The patient and doctor have a bona fide physician-patient relationship
  • The physician has informed the patient about the risks and benefits of medical marijuana
  • The physician has informed the patient that he or she believes the benefits of the patient using medical marijuana outweigh the risks
  • The physician has requested a report related to the patient from the drug database

However, this affirmative defense may be of little use to many patients in need of medical marijuana since the State Medical Board of Ohio recently told physicians that they are "not permitted to issue a [...] written recommendation to use medical marijuana until the physician has obtained a certificate to recommend from the State Medical Board of Ohio."

Even worse, the Board said it may take until September 8, 2017, before the rules outlining the process for obtaining such a certificate are developed - meaning the affirmative defense contained in the law is essentially useless for the time being.

Unfortunately, there may not be a quick resolution to this problem, especially given the time it will likely take for Ohio's medical marijuana system to get up and running. In the mean time, it seems like the patients are the ones who will have to suffer - either physically or in the form of possible criminal charges if they still choose to use marijuana to treat their conditions.

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