Ohio may soon be the 25th U.S state to legalize medical marijuana after a very close vote earlier this week.
Having cleared the Senate by only three votes, the bill will now be sent to Governor John Kasich; who has previously stated he would support a medical marijuana bill if it had the green light from doctors. The governor had previously voted against medical marijuana way back in 1999 and has also continued in his stance against recreational use.
The Ohio bill isn’t particularly broad in terms of how medical cannabis can be utilised compared to some other U.S. states in that it will only allow a couple of dozen qualifying conditions. Still, it’s a start – in other states where medical cannabis has managed to get a foot in the door, eligibility has at times been extended.
Under the Ohio legislation, patients will not be permitted to cultivate cannabis, nor will they be able to smoke it; but vaping will be allowed. Vaping involves heating the plant material to a temperature where cannabinoids such as THC and cannabidiol are released and inhaled; but combustion does not occur.
Medical cannabis products such as oils and plant materials would be made available from dispensaries and there’s also plans for an in-state commercial cultivation program as well as processing and manufacturing.
“This bill is not perfect, but it’s what Ohio patients need,” said Ohio Senator Kenny Yuko (Democrat) before the vote. “Marijuana is not a gateway drug, but a gateway off drugs.”
Assuming the bill gets the governor’s signature, it could still be two years before a program is put in place. In the interim, patients and caregivers can still possess medical cannabis as long as it is prescribed and meets the program’s criteria.
In November last year, the people of Ohio voted against an amendment to permit the use of medicinal marijuana. The defeat was reportedly because the proposed amendment also included legalising recreational use and reportedly could have threatened the creation of oligopoly in relation to cultivation within the state.
However, a poll in May indicated 90 percent of Ohio voters supported the legalization of medicinal marijuana only. An earlier poll last October indicated a similar level of support.