Pubdate: Wed, 18 May 2016
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2016 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Jim Siegel, The Columbus Dispatch


As it nears a potential vote next week on medical marijuana, the
Senate today made a number of bill changes, 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.
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