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Ohio medical marijuana law not much help for now

Ohio's medical marijuana law went into effect last week. But even if you qualifies under the laws very strict definitions of who is permitted to possess medical marijuana products, you may find it virtually impossible to obtain the medicine you need and not risk criminal prosecution.

While the law nominally permits those suffering from the listed severe diseases and conditions to use medical marijuana, there is no licensed dispensary in Ohio and the law does not permit patients to grow plants or extract oils on their own. They also must have a note from a doctor certifying their need for the treatment. But the law currently lacks any guidance to doctors on what they need to say in such a letter.

In fact, there are no rules at all for any segment of the production or distribution of medical marijuana in the state yet. Before any real infrastructure can develop, the state Department of Commerce, Ohio Pharmacy Board, and Ohio Medical Board all need to promulgate rules.

That has yet to happen, so individuals are left in limbo; medical marijuana may be legal for their use for their particular medical condition, except they cannot obtain it legally within the state from anyone.

So even if you found a doctor who would go against the advice of the Ohio State Medical Board and certify that you needed marijuana oil or a patch, the only way you could obtain it would be to do it illegally. Unlike Ohio's neighboring state of Pennsylvania, if you secure the material from out of state, you cannot obtain a "safe harbor" letter and bring it into Ohio.

Michigan is no help, as that state prohibits the dispensing of medical marijuana to anyone without a patient-registry card, available only to Michigan residents.

This leaves Ohioans at risk for criminal charges at the hands of a prosecutor who may want to send a message that all aspects of the law will be strictly enforced. So for those unwilling to risk a drug charge, it may two or more years before the promise of this law actually provides some relief.

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