Kerry Francis, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Commerce, the agency overseeing medical marijuana cultivators, processors and testing laboratories, confirmed communities cannot ban testing laboratories.
Fairfield City Council discussed the idea of a medical marijuana ban two weeks ago as Ohio begins to finalize the rules of the industry.
City officials expressed concerns over the public interaction with medical marijuana, especially with dispensaries that they believe will have to be a cash-only business since marijuana is still banned on a federal level. Banks, which are federally insured, may not be allowed to permit credit card transactions, city officials said.
The city of Middletown in September imposed a moratorium on medical marijuana cultivation, processing and dispensing, and in February made it a ban on the industry. The ban, like Fairfield’s, does not include testing laboratories.
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The rules and procedures for medical marijuana are currently being drafted, according to Francis, but only public universities are permitted to test medical marijuana during the first year of the law. The Ohio Department of Commerce will begin accepting applications for testing laboratories a year after the rules are adopted.
The medical marijuana rules are set to be adopted on Sept. 8.
Several other Butler County communities — Liberty, Ross and Fairfield townships — have instituted a moratorium, waiting to find out more as rules and regulations are drafted, and the city of Hamilton banned dispensaries.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law last year a bill that legalizes marijuana for medicinal uses, including cancer, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic pain. It allows multiple forms of medical marijuana to be sold, such as edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing, but smoking the plant is not allowed. Neither are home-grow operations.
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Regulation of medical marijuana will be handled by:
- The Ohio Department of Commerce, which will operate a seed-to-sale program and oversee the licensed cultivators;
- The State Medical Board of Ohio, which will certify doctors who would offer recommendations (not prescriptions) for medical marijuana patients; and
- The Ohio Pharmacy Board, which will register patients and caregivers, and oversee dispensaries.
Pro-marijuana legalization organizations say a ban simply drives those who will seek medical marijuana to other communities, thus losing tax revenues, said Chris Lindsey, the senior legislative counsel with Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project.
“They should allow (all aspects of the medical marijuana program) because, first of all over 90 percent in Ohio support this program,” he said. “Also, those people who qualify for the program should have reasonable access.”
But Lindsey said this issue is not going away. Quinnipiac University polls in October 2015 and May 2016 indicate 90 percent of Ohioans support medical marijuana, which is up 3 percent from a February 2014 poll.
“I hope they don’t think that temporarily banning medical marijuana that this situation is going away from them,” he said. “It’s not a long-term solution.”