Medical Marijuana Law Raises Questions

Ohio has joined the ranks of states easing restrictions on marijuana to allow the substance to be used medically. The new medical marijuana law is far from the blanket legalization that many people support, but some consider it a step in the right direction. For people with qualifying health conditions, access to medical marijuana could be a life-changer.

Qualifying Medical Conditions

Access to medical marijuana is limited to specific medical conditions, but the law does allow for other illnesses or health conditions to be added at the discretion of the state medical board. For now, only 22 listed illnesses can be legally treated with medical marijuana. They include:

  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • Epilepsy or another seizure disorder
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic brain injury

Also included on the list is pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable. Marijuana will continue to be treated as a schedule I controlled substance when used for any purpose other than to treat the excepted conditions.

Forms And Uses Of Medical Marijuana

Even people with a qualifying health condition are limited in how they may use medical marijuana. The law clearly states that smoking or burning marijuana is forbidden as a delivery method. It also bans all forms and methods "considered attractive to children." It allows the vaporization of medical marijuana as well as dispensing it in the following forms:

  • Oils
  • Tinctures
  • Plant material
  • Edibles
  • Patches

The state board of pharmacy has the power to approve additional forms and methods of use, with the exception of smoking or burning.

How To Obtain Medical Marijuana

The new law implements several hurdles that must be cleared to legally use medical marijuana and does not leave a clear path for patients looking to start cannabis treatment at this time. It will likely be more than a year before a viable framework takes shape, allowing patients to buy medical marijuana from a licensed dispensary. No such dispensaries exist today and the law forbids patients from growing their own marijuana. As it is a violation of federal law to transport marijuana across state lines, even a person who meets all the criteria for using medical marijuana is likely to be unable to acquire it.

While the law is in place, many of the rules regarding medical marijuana have yet to be created. The law requires the state board of pharmacy to adopt rules laying out standards and procedures in the next year. The new rules adopted under the medical marijuana control program will dictate how the drug can be dispensed, the procedures necessary for obtaining a license to sell it and the process necessary to become a registered user of medical cannabis. The new law is a starting point for people in need of medical marijuana, but it is a long way from the finish line.

Criminal Defense In Marijuana Cases

From now on, patients will have an affirmative defense to charges of possession or use of marijuana based on valid medicinal use. That defense will require an accused person to show that he or she meets all the requirements of medical marijuana use, including a written recommendation from a doctor, diagnosis of a qualifying condition and proper use of an approved form of the drug. If you are charged with using marijuana or possessing marijuana or drug paraphernalia from today onward, you can assert this defense if you meet the criteria. Again, this defense will apply in limited circumstances and obviously does not include paraphernalia used to smoke or combust marijuana as those methods of intake are prohibited.

Federal Criminal Law

Medical marijuana is now legal in more than half of U.S. states. Despite the widespread public support and the proliferation of medical marijuana statutes around the country, the federal government still lists marijuana as a controlled substance. The Ohio Legislature does not have the power to change that. The federal government has not generally chosen to prosecute people who use medical marijuana in the states that allow it, but it has not changed the laws either. An individual or business seeking legal guidance about medical marijuana should bear in mind that Ohio's medical marijuana statute is not the only law that applies.

Rittgers & Rittgers

Rittgers & Rittgers has years of experience defending clients in Ohio in a wide range of criminal matters. We represent defendants in cases involving marijuana possession and trafficking, as well as other drug crimes. To learn more about our criminal defense law firm, visit us at www.rittgers.com.