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What should every Ohioan know about medical marijuana?

By JEREMY SCHNEIDER • Jan 3, 2019 at 3:00 PM

TOLEDO — Now that medical marijuana is legal in Ohio, it doesn't mean concertgoers can pass a joint among themselves or that someone can unwind after a long day with a smoke.

Medical marijuana was approved last year in Ohio, a full decade after a similar law passed in neighboring Michigan. While the Ohio Board of Pharmacy has yet to officially license any of the 56 dispensaries it approved, people who hold a medical marijuana card in Ohio aren't without options.

But what does it all mean? Here are five things you need to know about medical marijuana in Ohio.

1. What's legal and illegal?

If you have one of 21 ailments or conditions listed and are at least 21 years old, you're eligible to receive a recommendation from a doctor to use medical marijuana. Legal use doesn't allow growing it at home or smoking, though -- the marijuana must be used in vapor form or as oils, tinctures, patches, edibles, or plant matter. And you can possess up to a 90-day supply of medications.

Here are the 21 conditions that make a patient eligible to use medical marijuana in Ohio: AIDS; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Alzheimer's disease; cancer; chronic traumatic encephalopathy; Crohn's disease; epilepsy or another seizure disorder; fibromyalgia; glaucoma; hepatitis C; inflammatory bowel disease; multiple sclerosis; pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable; Parkinson's disease; positive status for HIV; post-traumatic stress disorder; sickle cell anemia; spinal cord disease or injury; Tourette's syndrome; traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis.

It's illegal to carry paraphernalia associated with smoking marijuana, but vape pens, which are used to heat the plant material rather than burn it, are legal. And don't even think about driving while under the influence of medical marijuana. Even without a blood or urine test, you can be charged if the officer observes you interacting in an impaired manner or via your performance in a field-sobriety test.

Even if you legally carry a medical marijuana card, you can still be fired or disciplined if you test positive for marijuana. Those fired for marijuana violations will be ineligible for unemployment compensation.

Medical marijuana users who need to travel to Michigan to receive their supply are somewhat protected under a so-called affirmative defense, which allows patients, their parents, or guardians who are caught in possession of medical marijuana to argue before a judge that they otherwise qualify under Ohio's law while the state's program has been in limbo.

2. How do you get medical marijuana?

You can't just walk into a dispensary and grab some weed. You need to visit a state-certified doctor, who then gives you a recommendation for use. But it won't be a prescription, per se. Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, doctors can only give patients written recommendations. The doctor will discuss your medical conditions and treatment history; bringing your medical records to the appointment helps the doctor make a recommendation.

If the doctor confirms your condition, you'll receive a signed recommendation, which will then be submitted to the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. After you pay a $50 registration fee and enter into the patient registry, you will receive an Ohio medical marijuana card via mail or email.

3. Where can you get it in Toledo?

While no medical dispensaries are open in Ohio yet, eight locations have been deemed eligible to receive permission to dispense medical marijuana. In Lucas County, 127 OH, LLC on Conant Street in Maumee and GTI Ohio, LLC on Sylvania Avenue in Toledo were approved. Glass City Alternatives, LLC, on Main Street in Bowling Green was the only location approved in Wood County. One location in each of Sandusky, Marion, and Auglaize counties were approved, and two locations in Erie County -- in Huron and Sandusky -- were approved.

4. What's the difference between Ohio and Michigan?

Just because the neighboring states both have legalized the use of medical marijuana doesn't mean the laws are the same. While Ohio doesn't allow patients to grow marijuana plants themselves, Michigan allows patients to grow as many as 12 plants. And while smoking marijuana is illegal in Ohio, the law in Michigan allows users to burn or incinerate plant matter, i.e., smoking it. There are also differences in the amount a patient is allowed to possess at any one time, the products sold at dispensaries, and prices.

The two states are currently work toward a reciprocal agreement for medical marijuana.

5. Does this pave the way for recreational marijuana use in Ohio?

It certainly does seem like legalizing medical marijuana paves the way for recreational use laws, but there is no tangible direct connection. Medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2008, and residents of the state voted to legalize recreational marijuana a decade later. Ohio seems to be moving much quicker, at least with the laws: Medical marijuana was legalized in 2018, and legalizing recreational marijuana could be on the ballots in 2019.

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