University Hall | Photo by Monica Brutto | The Wright State Guardian
On Jan. 11, 2023, state senators Stephen Huffman and Kirk Schuring introduced Senate Bill 9, seeking a division of control within the Department of Commerce and a medical marijuana oversight commission.
Legalization in Ohio
Medicinal marijuana became legal in Ohio on Sep. 8, 2016, through House Bill 523, which state senator Huffman primarily sponsored.
There are currently 63 certified medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. On May 16, 2022, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy issued 70 provisional dispensary licenses.
Dr. Glen Solomon, professor and chair of internal medicine and neurology at Wright State University, discussed the issue of government-controlled marijuana.
“They approved it because, basically, this was a financial issue. They wanted tax dollars, and there is an enormous marijuana industry. That’s growers, that’s distributors who want to make a lot of money, and there’s a lot of money to be made, or billions of dollars to be made, in the marijuana industry,” Solomon said.
According to an Ohio Medical Marijuana Control report, medicinal marijuana has generated over $1.16 billion in Ohio since April 30, 2019. These sales include a government tax of 5.75%.
Marijuana and the FDA
The Mayo Clinic website states that medicinal marijuana displays possible benefits for conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), glaucoma, epilepsy and severe and chronic pain; however, these treatments can also cause a multitude of side effects, including increased heart rate, dizziness and increased appetite.
The core issue of marijuana as a form of treatment is that it is not certified by the Food and Drug Administration, and Solomon explained why FDA certification is important.
“Typically, the way our medication system works in the United States is there is a disease, and researchers, whether they are in academia or in a pharmaceutical company, study that disease to try to find a therapy that is effective to treat that disease,” Solomon said. “They never did studies to look at the safety of medical marijuana in any given condition.”
In June 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a drug that contains cannabis oil derived from the marijuana plant, for treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy. According to the Center for Disease Control website, this is the only FDA-approved treatment associated with marijuana.
Solomon asserted that the issue of legalizing marijuana should be resolved through a referendum or legislation in Ohio. The professor believes that, if legalized, recreational marijuana use will be similar to alcohol use, and that legislation might occur sooner rather than later.
There is current legislation for House Bill 498, which seeks to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Under this new proposal, the government would implement a 10% tax on sales of marijuana. The bill needs to generate 130,000 signatures by May 3, 2023, for addition to the ballot this November.
“What I honestly believe is that people are going into the medical marijuana dispensing side of things because they anticipate that it will become recreational in the next year or two, and that they already have their foot in the door to be able to shift from medical marijuana [to] recreational marijuana. I think that’s a big part of why you see this rapid growth in the number of dispensaries,” Solomon explained.