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Medical Marijuana in Ohio: What Happens Next?

Photo of marijuana leaves

Medical marijuana has been signed into law in Ohio, but that’s just the first step towards actually implementing a process to make its distribution in Ohi legal. 

Democratic Sen. Kenny Yuko of the Cleveland area is celebrating. After 13 years of working on the issue, his hope of legalizing medical marijuana has been achieved.

“When I was first approached in 2003 about medical marijuana by my physician, I took it with a smirk and a smile because I had never put those two words together,” Yuko said.

Gov. John Kasich's signing the bill into law  this week is just the beginning. Now a committee of appointees picked by Kasich, and Senate and House leaders will write up the rules for growing and distributing.

A timeline
That committee has two years to get everything in place. But Yuko says Ohioans should be able to legally use marijuana by the beginning of September. All they need to do is get their official recommendation from their doctor and go to a state that already legally distributes marijuana.

“Michigan or Pennsylvania. Get the product, come home. We’ll protect them with that card from law enforcement harassing them until we get our dispensaries up and running,” Yuko said.

Keeping an eye on implementation
Ohioans for Medical Marijuana was working on a ballot issue to legalize medical marijuana via the state Constitution, but dropped the effort after the bill passed. But the group’s Aaron Marshall says it's going to keep a close eye on the implementation.

“We need to make sure that the promises embedded in H.B. 523 are lived up to. We need a low-cost system that people can access and people can afford,” Marshall said.

The bill creates the Medical Marijuana Control Program, which will be run by the Ohio Department of Commerce and state pharmacy board.

One stipulation spelled out in the new law is that smoking medical marijuana will remain illegal. It can be used with a vaporizer.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.