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Ohio board deals blow to medical marijuana

Could be 2 years before state has its own licensed system

COLUMBUS — The State Medical Board of Ohio dealt a blow today to those who hoped they might be able to legally use medical marijuana before the state put its own system of growing and dispensing pot into place.

”A physician is not permitted to issue a state of Ohio approved written recommendation to use medical marijuana until the physician has obtained a certificate to recommend from the State Medical Board of Ohio,” the board advised Friday.

Such a written recommendation is necessary in order for a patient to be able to assert the “affirmative defense” provided under the new state law if the event a patient is caught in possession of cannabis before he or she can legally buy it from Ohio’s state-run system.

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The State Medical Board of Ohio dealt a blow today to those who hoped they might be able to legally use medical marijuana before the state put its own system of growing and dispensing pot into place.

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The board notes that it has until Sept. 8, 2017 to develop the rules under which doctors could issue such recommendations. It could be nearly two years before the state has its licensed system of growing, testing, and dispensing marijuana in place.

“The Board recommends that physicians consult with their private legal counsel and/or employer for interpretation of the legislation,” reads the medical board’s advisory.

The Ohio State Medical Association had advised its members to wait for further guidance from their state licensing and disciplinary board. That position has not changed.

“We would advise our members not to do anything until the rules and regulations have been drafted and promulgated,” said spokesman Reginald Fields. “We understand that may not be for a year or so.”

Given the time it will take for the state to build its medical system from scratch, lawmakers had inserted the affirmative defense into the law. But there are questions about how real that defense might be if the patient can’t acquire a recommendation or cross state lines to legally buy medical cannabis elsewhere in the meantime.

“We feel like the legislative intent was crystal clear on affirmative defense, that patients would have immediately received legal protection,” said Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. “We’re disappointed to see the state medical board has interpreted the affirmative defense in this fashion.

“We need the medical board to take up this issue as soon as possible and not wait a year to get around to it…,” he said. “If they wait until September 2017, the affirmative defense is just words on paper.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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