Some doctors in Toledo are already giving patients cards enabling them to buy medical marijuana, and classes are popping up for Ohio physicians in this new legal field.
But proper rules to help physicians sail these uncharted waters are still months away. No physician has been certified in Ohio to recommend cannabis, and no continuing education seminar has been formally sanctioned.
Omni Medical Services, which began in Michigan and runs in Florida and Illinois, also provides doctors to clinics in Toledo, Lima. Qualifying patients walk away with “affirmative defense” letters as well as a list of Michigan dispensaries where they may buy marijuana to bring back to Ohio, without hindrance by law enforcement.
It could be as late as September 8 before Ohio’s rules for physicians are finalized, and the program’s deadline to be completely functional isn’t until a year after that. Marijuana still cannot be lawfully sold or bought here.
The Ohio State Medical Association has advised members to wait until rules are finalized before stepping into this overcast legal territory.
House Bill 523, the Ohio law that last year legalized medical marijuana, provides for an “affirmative defense.” This enables a medical marijuana patient charged with possession before Ohio’s program takes effect to make the argument before a judge that they satisfy the conditions for the program in hopes that the charges would be dropped.
Someone suffering from any of 21 qualifying ailments and chronic illnesses would first have to get letters from doctors to purchase cannabis elsewhere and return to Ohio. That individual would have to show that he or she is using the drug in conformity with the new law.
Ohio’s law provides for reciprocity in which states whereby each patient registration cards may be recognized by states with similar programs. But the Ohio Pharmacy Board is waiting to finish its rules before contemplating any reciprocity arrangement.
Ohio law prohibits smoking or home-growing of marijuana. It may only be used in plant matter, edible, patch, tincture, oil, or vapor form|patch, edible, oil, tincture, plant matter, or vapor form.
The doctor rules, as well as some other rules working their way through the approval process, appear to dismiss the notion of affirmative defense.
A former state Supreme Court justice who’s now executive director of the Ohio Judicial Conference, Paul Pfeifer, said he doesn’t think its committees have been looking at legal issues involving medical marijuana.
“Judges regard this to be in the formative phases,” he said. “I’m not aware of any educational programming at this time. It’s simply premature. We don’t know what the regulations and the rules are going to be yet.”
The ink was hardly dry on House Bill 523 before entities were offering seminars on how best to begin marijuana-related businesses. The first set of rules promulgated under the new law, those which affect only growing facilities, won’t take effect until the first week of May and rules for patients, caregivers, processors, testing facilities, and retail dispensaries don’t need to be finished until September 8.
The Medical Cannabis Education Symposium promises to bring in doctors and professors with hands-on expertise outside Ohio. Areas target such matters as using cannabis for cancer, psychiatric, neurological, and dementia patients; pain management; the science of the plant; the way to provide the medication, and side effects, interactions, and impairment linked to the drug.
While the seminar offers up to 18 continuing education credits through the American Medical Association and up to 17.9 contact hours through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, it doesn’t have the stamp of approval of the state medical or osteopathic organizations.
Under the State Medical Board’s proposed rules, a doctor must complete an approved two-hour course that will be customized to Ohio to get certification.