Senate Bill 261 aims to expand access to medical marijuana in Ohio, the bill has already passed in the state senate and lawmakers hope to pass it through during this lame-duck session.
Lakewood native and Ohio Senator Nickie Antonio is a co-sponsor of SB 261.
“Ohio was late to the game with medical marijuana to begin with and how it’s dispensed and everything else, so I think this marks an opportunity to catch up,” said Antonio.
The bill expands the current qualifying conditions like arthritis and migraines, it also goes a step further to allow doctors to recommend the drug for any condition the physician deems necessary.
“I think that that’s the best path we can go on,” said Antonio. “I think there’s a lot of value in being able to have this treatment opportunity available to people as an alternative to all kinds of things that may have other side effects.”
The legislation is sponsored by a republican senator from the Dayton area, adding to Antonio’s confidence that lawmakers can get it passed before the year is over, though a national debate on the effectiveness of medical marijuana is ongoing.
“When we look at cannabis as a whole it’s still a schedule one drug,” said Shannon Donnelly of Metro State University of Denver. “It has no medicinal value and it's in the same level as heroin or LSD.”
Right now, medical marijuana regulations are led by both Ohio’s Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Commerce, which cannabis companies say causes a lot of frustration.
“It can also lead to conflicting direction from different agencies, right now for example an operator has to submit all advertising for approval to both of those agencies and sometimes you end up with different decisions for the same piece of advertising,” said Tom Haren with The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
This bill instead will create a Division of Marijuana Control within the Department of Commerce, that Haren believes could help lower costs for consumers.
While lawmakers work to pass this bill before the month is over, cannabis companies say it still doesn’t expand access far enough for them.
“In our view on behalf of the coalition it doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t set up what Ohio really needs, which is an adult use program like many other states have already done successfully,” said Haren.
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