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In legalizing medical marijuana earlier this year, State lawmakers performed a great service to thousands of Ohioans suffering from cancer, epilepsy, post traumatic stress disorder and several other ailments.

The law, House Bill 523, technically takes effect Thursday, but it could be a few years before medical marijuana dispensaries are set up.

Until then, doctors can certify that a patient suffers from a qualifying medical condition, that they understand the risks of long-term use and that the benefits of use outweigh potential risks, as The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently reported. That could lead patients to other states where medical marijuana is legal for purchase, or to the black market. Patients could possess marijuana and paraphernalia eligible under the law without the risk of prosecution. This “affirmative defense,” as its called, runs out two months after the state establishes its patient registry and begins accepting applications for registry identification cards, according to the Plain Dealer.

The transition itself to a strictly regulated medical marijuana market presents several gray areas. For example, will other states like Michigan fill prescriptions of out-of-state patients? How will federal law apply?

Once Ohio has its registry in place and begins licensing dispensaries and manufacturing facilities even more questions will arise, especially for local governments.

As The Canton Repository’s Jessica Holbrook and Kelly Byer have reported, three Stark County communities are tackling the subject head-on. Plain Township trustees will host a public meeting Thursday,the same day the state law takes effect, to discuss the new law. North Canton City Council could follow the lead of other Ohio cities by enacting a six-month moratorium. And Lake Township trustees, who will also meet Thursday, will consider banning medical marijuana cultivators, dispensaries and processors.

Lawmakers wisely granted local governments a degree of control. Local jurisdictions are allowed to restrict or deter marijuana from being cultivated, processed or sold within their borders, as Holbrook and Byer reported.

While we don’t advocate for or against any restriction, we urge all local officials to discuss the impacts of the law, from zoning codes to employment policies and everything in between.

As Ohio Municipal League spokesman Josh Brown pointed out, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, making medical marijuana legalization in Ohio “a very complex and difficult issue.”

Lengthy and thoughtful deliberation is in and of itself good policy. The sooner municipalities and townships begin discussing the impacts of the law change, the better they’ll be prepared to adjust to it once it’s in full effect.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Medical Marijuana Law Set To Take Effect
Author: Staff
Contact: 330-580-8500
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Website: Canton Rep