State senator, advocates push for Ohio medical marijuana program

A state senator who’s a long-time medical marijuana advocate says it’s time to push aside roadblocks and put the program in place because patients can’t wait any longer.

State Sen. Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, had a press conference Tuesday with two advocates who said medical marijuana made a difference in the treatments of chronic health problems for themselves or a family member.

Ohio lawmakers approved plans to put a medical marijuana program in place by Sept. 8, but the program has been beset with questions about the scoring process over who received licenses and at least two lawsuits.

State Auditor Dave Yost determined last month it was too late to pause the program before it starts in September, has reported.

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“It’s a game changer for our family, our friends and people who we know,” Yuko said. “We have a process that’s being challenged …. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about helping people who are desperately in need of it.”

Nicole Scholten of Cincinnati appeared at the press conference with her teenage daughter, Lucy, who has cerebral palsy and suffers frequent seizures.

Scholten said medical marijuana often works better than other medications.

“There are some very sick people in the state of Ohio who are counting on this medicine,” she said.

Some doctors, however, are concerned about prescribing medical marijuana because of unanswered questions.

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There is an information gap on questions such as how effective marijuana is for specific disorders and how it interacts with other medications, some doctors have said.

In November 2015, Ohio voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use and granted growing licenses to the entities that bankrolled the campaign. Concerned that the issue would likely return, lawmakers decided to exert control over the process and moved to legalize medical marijuana. Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law in June 2016.

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The program will permit doctors to write recommendations for medical marijuana for their patients who suffer from more than a dozen conditions, including cancer, chronic pain and PTSD. The Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio Board of Pharmacy and State Medical Board oversee the program. The state has issued licenses to two dozen small and large-scale growers and is reviewing applications for processor and dispensary licenses.

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The program prohibits home grow and smoking marijuana.

Twenty-nine states have legalized medical use of marijuana and eight states have approved it for recreational use. Marijuana is still classified as a prohibited controlled substance under federal law with no recognized medical uses.

Reporter Kaitlin Schroeder contributed to this story.

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