Pubdate: Wed, 25 May 2016
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press


Proposal Scrapped Over Concerns About Burden on the State.

COLUMBUS (AP) - A legislative proposal to regulate medical marijuana 
through Ohio's pharmacy board was scrapped Tuesday over concerns the 
rare setup nationally would create an undue burden on the state.

Republican Sen. David Burke, a Marysville pharmacist behind the idea, 
called the arrangement the most responsible way to oversee marijuana 
as medicine. He said changes introduced in the Senate Government 
Oversight Committee on Tuesday were needed to strike a workable compromise.

"This bill doesn't give me everything I want, but it does give the 
people of Ohio what they need - and that's the most important thing," 
Burke said. The legislation comes as the state's 
Republican-controlled Legislature seeks to head off a prospective 
medical marijuana ballot question this fall.

GOP Sen. Bill Coley, who chairs the committee considering the 
fast-tracked medical marijuana bill, said the new plan still requires 
pharmacists at dispensaries but leaves doctors under the medical 
board and places cultivation and processing under the state Commerce 
Department. Republican senators planned a caucus Tuesday evening; it 
wasn't clear whether the compromise language would have the votes to 
clear the chamber.

The House plan, approved May 10, created a nine-member Medical 
Marijuana Control Commission to set rules for cultivating, 
distributing and licensing cannabis. That's more in line with what 
other states have done and more closely mirrors the regulatory setup 
favored by medical marijuana advocates. The National Association of 
Boards of Pharmacy says only Connecticut and Louisiana regulate 
medical marijuana through their pharmacy boards. Most states 
establish control commissions that distance federally licensed 
doctors and pharmacies from distribution.

The Drug Enforcement Agency licenses doctors and registers pharmacies 
that prescribe controlled substances. Those authorizations don't 
currently allow prescriptions of marijuana because it hasn't been 
cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. It is still a Schedule I 
substance, deemed unsafe and addictive by the FDA. For that reason, 
medical marijuana bills, including Ohio's, generally call for 
physicians to "recommend," not "prescribe," medical pot.

Burke said pharmacies, not individual pharmacists, are certified by 
the DEA, so the requirement retained under Tuesday's bill revisions 
for a pharmacist to be placed at every dispensary wouldn't be risky. 
He said they're not in jeopardy of losing a license or being 
prosecuted for distributing marijuana.

In prepared testimony Tuesday, Ohio Pharmacists Association director 
Ernest Boyd said his members had been on the fence about supporting 
pharmacists even working at medical marijuana dispensaries because of 
the drug's legal status - let alone the pharmacy board overseeing the 
whole program. But it's been decided that if medical marijuana 
legalization is inevitable, pharmacists have a role in keeping it 
safe, he said.

Carmen Catizone, executive director of the national pharmacy boards 
association, said despite the potential value of involving 
pharmacists in the process, the approach runs risks that many other 
states have been unwilling to take. He said the Justice Department's 
current policy of selective enforcement against legalized marijuana 
is merely "a gentleman's agreement" that could evaporate after 
President Barack Obama leaves office next year. "The overriding 
principle for pharmacies and pharmacy boards is that, under federal 
law, it is still illegal," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom