The second part in our series on the legalization of medical marijuana will cover how the drug is prescribed, who it can be prescribed to, and how it is regulated. This post will detail how medical marijuana will take shape in Ohio. To learn more about how this law originated and how it will impact your business, please read part one of our series.
Under federal law, marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance. This means that it is illegal to distribute or prescribe. Thus, under HB 523, physicians do not prescribe medical marijuana but, instead, recommend its use to patients. Patients also do not receive medical marijuana from a pharmacy but rather from a dispensary. This is due to federal laws governing prescription drugs. The timeline for implementation is to have the entire system for growing, processing, recommending, and dispensing medical marijuana in place within two years.
The bill requires that the Department of Commerce and State Board of Pharmacy establish a Medical Marijuana Control Program to provide for licensure, registration, and implementation related to medical marijuana. The Department of Commerce will license cultivators, processors, and testing laboratories. The Board of Pharmacy will license retail dispensaries and register patients and caregivers. The Medical Board will issue certificates to physicians seeking to recommend treatment with medical marijuana.
The bill also establishes a 14 member Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee whose charge is to develop and submit recommendations to the Department of Commerce, Board of Pharmacy, and Medical Board on the Medical Marijuana Control Program. The Committee members include two pharmacists and two physicians and a member who represents each of the following: local law enforcement, employers, labor, persons involved in mental health treatment, nurses, caregivers, patients, agriculture persons involved in the treatment of alcohol drug addiction, and a member who engages in academic research.
QUALIFYING MEDICAL CONDITIONS
HB 523 states that medical marijuana may only be recommended for the treatment of a qualifying medical condition. Under the bill, the following are the listed qualifying medical conditions:
AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), multiple sclerosis (MS), pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis.
The bill also authorizes individuals to petition the Medical Board to add a disease or condition to the list which the Board must review and then either approve or deny.
FORMS OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA
HB 523 permits medical marijuana to be dispensed in the form of oils, tinctures, plant material, edibles, patches, and any other form approved by the Board of Pharmacy. However, it prohibits any form or method considered attractive to children. Similar to the list of qualifying conditions above, an individual may petition the Board of Pharmacy to approve an additional form or method of using medical marijuana which the Board must review and then approve or deny. The bill explicitly prohibits the use of medical marijuana by smoking or combustion but does allow for vaporization or “vaping”.
Physicians must apply to the Medical Board and receive a certificate to recommend medical marijuana. Physicians holding a certificate to recommend must complete at least two hours of continuing medical education dealing with medical marijuana that has been approved by the Medical Board. Medical marijuana cannot be personally furnished or dispensed by a physician and physicians are prohibited from issuing a recommendation to themselves or family members. However, physicians are granted immunity from civil liability, professional disciplinary action, and criminal prosecution for advising patients or caregivers about medical marijuana, recommending use of medical marijuana, or monitoring a patient’s treatment with medical marijuana.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA RECOMMENDATION
A physician who has received a certificate to recommend medical marijuana may do so if the patient has been diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition and a bona fide physician-patient relationship has been established through all of the following: an in-person physical examination; a review of the patient’s medical history by the physician; and an expectation of providing care and receiving care on an ongoing basis.
In order to become a registered medical marijuana patient or a caregiver to assist a patient, the person must apply to the Board of Pharmacy. The application must be completed by certified physician on behalf of the patient or caregiver and must state that a bona fide physician-patient relationship exists, that the patient has been diagnose with a qualifying medical condition, that the physician has informed the patient of the benefits and risks of medical marijuana, and that the physician believes the benefits outweigh the risks. Once registered, the patient is authorized to use or possess medical marijuana and any paraphernalia or accessories approved by the Board of Pharmacy. Registered caregivers are authorized to possess or assist a registered patient in the use of medical marijuana but cannot use it themselves unless he or she is also a registered patient. Patients and caregivers who use, possess, or administer medical marijuana in accordance with the bill’s provisions and the rules to be promulgated by the various Boards and Agencies are not subject to arrest or prosecution.
OPERATING A VEHICLE
HB 523 does NOT authorize a registered patient to operate a vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft while under the influence of medical marijuana. However, the bill also states that a person’s status as a registered patient or caregiver is not alone sufficient basis to conduct a field sobriety test on the person or for suspending the person’s drivers’ license.
HB 523 states that a person’s status as a registered patient or caregiver cannot be used as the sole or primary basis for rejecting a person as a tenant, unless required by federal law.
The bill requires the Board of Pharmacy to attempt to negotiate and enter into reciprocity agreements with other states if the other state’s eligibility requirements are substantively comparable to Ohio’s and that other state will recognize Ohio’s medical marijuana patients. If granted reciprocity, the other state’s card authorizing medical marijuana use would be accepted.