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Ohio Set to Become the 26th Medical Cannabis State

On May 25, the Ohio Legislature sent a medical cannabis bill that would create a system of retail distribution in the state to Governor John Kasich (R), who has said he will sign it. HB 523, which passed the state Senate by a vote of 18-15 and the House by a 67-28 vote, will make Ohio the 26th state with a medical cannabis access program and the 42nd state with either a medical cannabis or a more limited cannabidiol (CBD) law. Once Ohio’s law is enacted, 300 million Americans will be living where cannabis or its derivatives can be legally used in medical treatment.

Under Ohio’s new law, qualifying patients will be able to purchase medical cannabis from dispensaries which will be licensed and regulated by the Ohio Department of Commerce. The law lists 22 qualifying conditions, including chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and new conditions can be added by the state medical board.

“The passing of HB 523 is something to celebrate, as so many patients will now have safe access to medical cannabis,” said Janet Breneman, a candidate for the state House who is also a nurse. “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 for their support and resources to help get this done."

ASA unsuccessfully sought amendments to HB 523, including the removal of language that could make it easier for employers to fire employees who are qualified patients and prevents patients from claiming 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.”

Less than 72 hours after lawmakers passed the bill, a group collecting signatures to put a medical cannabis initiative on the ballot announced it was suspending the campaign, though the measure was broader than the law passed, including allowing personal cultivation and more ways of using medical cannabis.

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