Ohio: Senate Makes HB523 Changes

19 May 2016

The Columbus Dispatch writes

As it nears a potential vote next week on medical marijuana, the Senate today made a number of bill change to House Bill 523 including those that seek to speed up the implementation and give Ohioans immediate access to the drug.

A chief complaint of the House-passed bill among medical marijuana proponents was Ohioans would have to wait for up to two years before getting access to the drug while regulations, farms and distributors were established.

The latest version of the bill, accepted in Senate committee on Wednesday, allows patients to obtain medical marijuana from out of state via prescription in forms legal under the bill, before the system is fully established in Ohio.

The goal is to give people “prompt access to product,” Burke said. The affirmative defense, protecting people carrying legal marijuana from criminal prosecution, would expire 60 days after the Pharmacy Board begins issuing medical marijuana cards.

The bill also shortens the rule-making timeline from one year in the House-passed bill to 180 days of when the bill becomes effective.

The changes also would no longer give regulatory authority to a new, appointed nine-member marijuana control commission. Instead, the state Pharmacy Board would administer the program, including licensing of dispensers and farms. The state Medical Board would issue certificates to doctors seeking to treat patients with marijuana.

The goal, Burke said, is to utilize current government infrastructure to regulate the program, while not requiring doctors and pharmacists to have to operate both under their traditional regulatory boards and a new marijuana commission.

“The Board of Pharmacy currently oversees drug manufacturing, distribution and the filing of prescriptions in the state,” said Burke, who is a licensed pharmacist. “It just seemed like a natural fit, rather than reinventing the wheel.”

The board would have the ability to specify what accessories are permissible to use marijuana and can alter the list of qualifying conditions.

One change that is raising some concerns, particularly among those pushing for a medical marijuana ballot issue in November, is a change to the qualifying medical conditions.

The House-passed version said marijuana could be prescribed for pain that is chronic, severe or intractable. The Senate changed that definition to “and intractable.”

Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, said that definition for pain is too restrictive, and could exclude a number of patients dealing with pain issues.

Burke said the Senate wants to avoid marijuana prescriptions for common, short-term pain situations.

“Having your wisdom teeth pulled as an adult is severe pain. But I don’t think that’s what people mean when they say ‘medical marijuana,’” he said. However, he said, migraine headaches that occur each month as part of a woman’s menstrual cycle would qualify.

In other changes, addressing concerns heard in testimony, the bill would no longer require physicians to report to the state its marijuana prescription activity every 90 days, instead requiring it annually. The revised bill also would no longer require marijuana patients to follow-up with a doctor every 90 days, instead requiring an in-person visit every year if the drug is still needed.

The bill also would no longer create a database of information for the number of people and types of conditions treated with marijuana.

The House plans to finish up its work next week before breaking until likely after the November election. The two chambers need to work quickly if members want the bill to pass it in time to impact on efforts to pass a November ballot issue.

Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, the House point person on the medical marijuana issue, said there some adjustments he wants to see to the Senate changes.

“I feel confident that we’ll be able to work together and find some common ground,” he said. He declined to talk specifics, but said the responsibilities of the new commission and the responsibilities of physicians are among the issues.


House Bill 523



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