With Ohio’s September 8 deadline — for medical cannabis operations to be fully up and running — quickly approaching, many hurdles remain despite the legality of the plant in the Buckeye State.
So what’s next?
“I’ll be very surprised if the state of Ohio has medical marijuana by the end of the year,” Releaf CEO Randall Smith recently told the Cleveland Plain Courier.
However, many disagree that a stall to the program’s start will occur — including local Cincinnati patient advocate Nicole Scholten.
“A solution that does not put patients as a priority is unacceptable,” Scholten said. “No to a halt — or a pause.”
Attorney Heather Stutz, who is defending the state’s department in a lawsuit involving Releaf and others who claimed Ohio’s growers license applications process is flawed, concurs.
“The cultivators are the first step in the process,” Stutz said.
There are currently 12 licences that have been provisionally granted to medical marijuana growing operations in Ohio, and that number could potentially increase — if flaws are found in the acceptance program and following the implementation of medical marijuana, which is still slated for September 8.
At this time, and with less than four months until the deadline, no dispensary licenses have been awarded.
But Stutz and others firmly believe the medical cannabis program in Ohio will still proceed as planned.
In related news and on a highly positive note, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine approved a petition to legalize recreational marijuana to adults 21 and over on Thursday, May 10.
According to the Cleveland Plain Courier, DeWine certified that the petition language for the “Marijuana Rights and Regulations” amendment is a “fair and truthful” summary of the proposed measure.
The petition now moves on to the Ohio Ballot Board to determine whether the measure is one or multiple ballot issues.
Once approved, advocates will still have their hands full — needing to accumulate at least 305,591 signatures of registered Ohio voters to put the issue on the ballot.
The proposed recreational marijuana initiative will not interfere with the state’s medical program, and although advocates wish the ballot could be voted on sooner, they are aiming for the 2019 election in November.
“This is unfortunate, because people are being arrested daily for activity that simply shouldn’t be criminal, only to support a black-market system,” Ohio Families for Change spokesman Jonathan Varner said in an email to the Plain Courier. “We’re confident that when voters have the opportunity to vote on this issue, they will overwhelmingly approve it.”
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at CannaTruths@gmail.com.