During my time in the state legislature, I have fought tooth and nail to protect families all across our state. As you may know, Governor Kasich recently signed into law House Bill 523, which legalizes medicinal marijuana and establishes the Marijuana Control Program to regulate its use. In spite of my opposition to creating any means of legalizing marijuana, there are many different facets of this bill that Ohioans should be aware of that serve to protect us and our children from harm.
In the United States, marijuana is treated as a Schedule I substance, meaning that it has no accepted medical use, is unsafe, and has a high potential for abuse. In this bill, however, marijuana is treated as a Schedule II substance, meaning that while there is potential for abuse, it does have medicinal value. This opens the door for new research into the possible benefits of the plant and its extracts, and even requires physicians that prescribe medicinal marijuana to a patient to submit a report to the state Medical Board to evaluate their progress. This legislation also urged Congress to officially reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II to encourage research nationwide.
The Marijuana Control Program will put in place a number of thorough restrictions to ensure that any marijuana being cultivated is only for medicinal purposes. The personal cultivation of marijuana still remains illegal, and patients will not be able to smoke the medications they receive. In addition, driving under the influence of marijuana is still an offense.
Physicians must undergo a thorough certification process before being able to prescribe to patients. Access to these substances will be strictly regulated, as patients must be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition to be considered. Cultivators and owners of dispensaries will be required to undergo a criminal background check, and dispensaries will be strictly regulated and inspected. They will also not be permitted to be within 500 feet of our churches, schools, parks, and libraries, and any forms of the drug that may be attractive to our children will be prohibited. In addition, local municipalities will have the power to limit or prohibit medicinal marijuana dispensaries in our communities, maintaining home rule.
One benefit of legalizing medical marijuana is that it will reduce the amount of opiates that doctors are prescribing. Marijuana is a much safer drug, and with less prescribed opiates, this may help reduce the number of drug addiction and overdoses in Ohio.
It is our responsibility as Ohioans to ensure that the right decisions are made for our state by holding our government accountable. Over the next two years as this law is implemented, it is my hope that our legislators and appointees will hold the interests of Ohio’s families in the highest regard, and will continue to fight to keep drugs out of the hands of children and off of our streets.
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The writer represents the 84th District in the Ohio House of Representatives.