Medical Cannabis on the 2012 Ohio Ballot?

Given the incessant coverage of the 2012 Presidential primary contest (can you believe Mitt Romney’s tax rate?!), it’s no wonder that many Ohioans aren’t aware that medical cannabis could be on the November 2012 ballot in Ohio. That’s right. In November, Buckeyes across the state may get the chance to legalize medical marijuana.

The Ohio Medical Cannabis Act

There are two ballot initiatives out there currently: (1) the Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment, and (2) The Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment. Both ballot initiatives have obtained the required approval from state authorities to begin gathering signatures. The amendments need 385,245 valid signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

If either of these ballot initiatives pass, Ohio would become one of 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, to have some sort of legalized medical cannabis laws.

The Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment

The Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment, proposed by the Ohio Patients Network would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis to adult patients with a qualifying medical condition. Under this amendment, patients could possess up to 3.5 ounces of cannabis and cultivate up to 12 plants. Regulation of medical cannabis would fall largely under the auspice of the Ohio Department of Health, although local zoning authorities would play a role in determining where “safe access centers” (dispensaries) could locate.

The Amendment also prohibits the centers from being located within 1000 feet of certain buildings, such as churches or schools. It would not be legal to operate a vehicle under the influence of cannabis, nor would employers be required to allow employees to use cannabis on at the workplace or allow employees to work while under the influence of cannabis. However, the employer would have to demonstrate that the employee was “impaired” if he or she claimed the employee was under the influence.

Notably, no health insurer, including the state of Ohio, would be required to reimburse a medical cannabis patient for the costs associated with using or obtaining medical cannabis.

The OATA is supported by the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Click here for the full text of the amendment. Click here for a summary of the amendment. 

The Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment

The Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment takes a different approach than the OATA, mentioned above. Rather than prescribe a regulatory scheme like the OATA, the OMCA takes a “rights” approach to medical cannabis, including among an Ohioan’s rights the right to “be eligible to use cannabis as medicine as a result of a diagnosed debilitating medical condition.” The OMCA would establish the Ohio Commission of Cannabis Control to regulate, fairly exclusively, medical cannabis in Ohio.

Because the OMCA would turn over the “nitty gritty” affairs of medical cannabis regulation to the new Ohio Commission of Cannabis Control, the amendment language does not provide much detail regarding exactly how medical cannabis would be regulated in Ohio. However, the OMCA does state that it does not authorize the operation of a motor vehicle when under the influence of cannabis, nor does it authorize the use of cannabis when doing so would constitute negligence or professional malpractice (limitations also present in the OATA).

Click here for the full text of the amendment. Click here for a summary of the amendment.


It will be interesting to see what happens with these amendments, whether either obtains the necessary amount of signatures to appear on the ballot, or whether either passes in November. In 2009, a University of Cincinnati poll found that 73% of Ohioans would support legalizing medical cannabis in Ohio.

5 Comments on “Medical Cannabis on the 2012 Ohio Ballot?

  1. Pingback: Ohio Marijuana Law Blog: Medical Cannabis on the 2012 Ballot? | Haren Law, LLC

  2. Do either of these amendments detail precisely what conditions would qualify you for medical cannabis in Ohio? I followed the Michigan Medical Marijuana issue fairly closely, and what they did which I think was really critical was that they limited it to debilitating medical conditions such that it can’t be abused as it is in other states, e.g. California.

    From the MMMA:

    “”Debilitating medical condition” means 1 or more of the following:

    (1) Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, nail patella, or the treatment of these conditions.

    (2) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces 1 or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.”

    This is more of the medical side of the issue as opposed to the legal side, but I think understanding the medical aspects of cannabis can inform the legal side.

    We also don’t have any provision for ‘dispensaries’ in any form, which I think helps to limit diversion. Insurer reimbursement in Michigan is similar to the proposed Ohio amendments: given that the drug is not FDA-approved most insurance wouldn’t cover it anyway (this is the basic clinical criteria set forth by even the most expensive private plans).

  3. The OATA: Qualifying medical condition means: (1) a disease, condition, or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: chachexia or wasting syndrome, severe nausea, chronic pain, or severe and persistent muscle spasms including but not limited to those characteristics of multiple sclerosis. Or, the following diseases and conditions (2) posttraumatic stress disorder, (3)glaucoma, (4)Parkinson’s, (5) sickle cell anemia. Or (6) any additional disease or condition added by the department.

    The OMCA: Debilitating medical conditions include, but are not limited to the following: glaucoma; multiple congenital cartilaginous exostosis; multiple sclerosis; nail-patella syndrome; positive status for human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS); Alzheimer’s disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; cancer; celiac disease; Crohn’s disease; hepatitis C; mylomalacia; post traumatic stress; rheumatoid arthritis; sickle cell anemia; injury or disease to the spinal cord, spinal column, or vertebra; Tourette’s syndrome; a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe or chronic nausea, seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, or severe or persistent muscle spasms; and any additional medical condition or its treatment that may be designated by the Commission or set forth by the General Assembly pursuant to Section 3.

  4. There are many more benefits we can receive from the cannabis plant, aside from just smoking it. A cannabis plant grows faster and produces more oxygen than a tree. We can also make rope, paper, cloth, insulation, walls, use it as a seasoning on your food and many many more things from this beautiful plant. I’m willing to bet, if the United States gov’t were to legalize and put taxes on the buying and selling of the crop, we (as a nation) would be on our way out of debt and see a LOT less crime on the boarders. Why are we waiting?

    • Great points, Brandon. The hemp industry has been eliminated from the US because of drug prohibition, even though hemp can’t get a person high. Instead of producing the products here, we import it from “radical” places like Canada and the UK.

      People are always quick to associate violence with drug use, yet they don’t realize that much of the violence is the result of drug prohibition, not use. Border violence would be decreased SIGNIFICANTLY if we were to decriminalize marijuana. The cartels feed off of the black market, and the best way to de-fund them is to decriminalize (or legalize) their product. All you need to do is look at the effect that alcohol prohibition had on the mafia during the 1920s to see the correlation between prohibition and organized crime.

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