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Washington DC - Late on Wednesday night, the Ohio Legislature passed a medical cannabis (marijuana) bill, HB 523, which would create a system of retail distribution in the state. The bill passed by a vote of 18-15 in the Senate, followed shortly by a 67-28 vote in the House.
Governor John Kasich (R) is expected to the sign the bill, which will make Ohio the 26th medical cannabis state and the 42nd state with either a medical cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD) law. This means that there are now more than 310 million Americans living in a state whose medical cannabis laws are out of alignment with the federal government.
Under the bill, patients would be able to purchase medical cannabis from dispensaries regulated by the Ohio Department of Commerce. There are currently 22 qualifying conditions under the bill, including chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and new conditions can be added by the state medical board. Once signed by the governor, the department will be able to begin the regulatory and licensing process.
“The passing of HB 523 is something to celebrate, as so many patients will be now have safe access to medical cannabis,” Said Janet Breneman, nurse and Democratic candidate for the 67th State House District. “It was a very long road to get us here and I am proud to have played a role in this history-making event. I want to thank Americans for Safe Access (ASA) for their support and resources to help get this done."
ASA was generally supportive of the HB 523 proposal, but sought amendments, including the removal of language the could make medical cannabis patients subject to being fired from their jobs. The employment provisions not only make it easier for employers to fire patient-employees, but also forbids them from seeking justice in the courts for wrongful termination.
“Overall, we are happy that Ohio has passed legislation that will create a system for safe and legal access to medical cannabis, but we have serious concerns about the employment provisions,” said Michael Liszewski, ASA Government Affairs Director. “Patients should not have to choose between the medicine and their job, but unfortunately, HB 523 will create these types of scenarios. We look forward to working with the legislature to amend the provision so patients won’t have to make this choice.”