COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 14, 2018) – Last week, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced the location of dozens of new medical marijuana dispensaries, taking another important step toward getting its medical marijuana program up and running and further nullifying the federal government’s unconstitutional cannabis prohibition in effect.
Medical marijuana became officially legal in Ohio in September 2016. Over the last year-and-a-half, the state has been putting the infrastructure in place to begin retail sales of medicinal cannabis, including drawing up rules and regulations for cultivators and processors, issuing cultivation licenses and approving dispensary operators. The announcement of 59 dispensary locations was the last major step before the program is completely up and running. Under the law, the medical marijuana program must be fully implemented by Sept. 8, 2018.
Officials say the state may have a hard time meeting that deadline. Delays have plagued implementation of the medical marijuana law. According to The Vindicator, Ohio Department of Commerce said the state won’t likely meet the deadline. A spokesperson said cultivators were expected to begin growing plants in May, but to date, none of the cultivation sites had received a certificate of operation.
According to the Vindicator, bureaucratic red tape has slowed implementation of the law, but one lab CEO defended state agencies saying, “It’s more important for a state to get this right than to try to hit deadlines that might have looked good on paper.”
Once fully in effect, Ohio will have a limited “seed-to-sale” system for growing, testing and dispensing marijuana. Patients suffering from 21 medical conditions will be able to access medicinal cannabis with some limitations. The law prohibits smoking marijuana and does not allow for home cultivation of cannabis. The law permits patients to use patches, edibles and vaping products.
With the passage of House Bill 523 (HB523), Ohioans for Medical Marijuana dropped its effort to put the issue on the ballot, citing lack of money and other issues.
“This is a joyous day for the thousands of Ohioans who will finally be able to safely access much-needed medicine,” Ohioans for Medical Marijuana spokesman Aaron Marshall said after Gov. John Kasich signed HB523. “We still have much work ahead of us to improve this imperfect law…”
According to activists on the ground in Ohio, the success of the program will be determined in large part by the rule-making and implementation process over the next several months.
“September 8 is the first step in a long process, and MPP and Ohioans for Medical Marijuana are watching that process closely. Many important policy decisions that will directly affect the success or failure of the system are yet to be made,” a Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson said on the organization’s website.
Although the Ohio law has a number of limitations, it takes an important first step. Many other states that started with very limited medical marijuana programs have expanded them over time. Once a market begins to establish and people realize the world hasn’t come to an end, they tend to become more open to its expansion.
However, all of this is prohibited under the 1970 federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
Legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio removed one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of cannabis. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By legalizing cannabis for medical use, Ohio essentially sweeps away some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. In January, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act.
With 30 states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.
“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.