Legislation legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio goes into effect today, but it will be some time before county businesses and officials see any change.
Joe Bennett, the managing partner of Brunswick-based Sextant Development, is among the county workers and residents watching the new legislation roll out.
His business is hoping to add medical marijuana patches to its repertoire of herbal adhesives, but even if the company decides creating the product will be economically beneficial, applying for a permit is still a ways off.
“We are positioned well if all those things took place to convert pretty quickly,” he said in an interview with The Gazette.
Items the state still needs to decide include:
- creating the permitting process;
- authorizing doctors to recommend medical marijuana;
- creating a system to produce and dispense marijuana.
The drug is still illegal under federal law.
While the Ohio law takes effect today, the full implementation could take up to two years. Law enforcement officials expect few changes immediately.
“It passed but it’s going to take some time to go into effect,” Capt. Ken Baca of the Medina County Sheriff’s Office said.
Baca said people caught with medical marijuana likely will have to show some sort of documentation from a physician, but until the legislation is “sifted out,” he doesn’t expect any significant changes.
Medina County Drug Task Force director Gary Hubbard agreed.
“It’s not going to change what we do,” Hubbard said.
The new legislation makes it legal to consume or use a vaporizer to smoke marijuana, but traditional smoking and any product considered attractive to children is prohibited.
Hubbard said last week he is waiting for prosecutors to interpret the law and the state to define the legislation to outline how he and other law enforcement agencies should proceed.
“The intention of the law is good,” he said. “I just think with some of the laws that are passed, a lot more forethought needs to be put in.”
Bennett said he is hopeful the system set up over the next several years will be strong.
“It’s patient care,” he said. “If it’s done correctly … and it’s controlled and regulated, we view it as providing a quality product.”
Providing medical marijuana is a business opportunity, but also an opportunity to help patients, he said. AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer and Alzheimer’s are among the list of conditions for which doctors may recommend medical marijuana under the new law.
The county health department does not have a stance on medical marijuana, but residents can discuss the drug with their physician, county Health Commissioner Krista Wasowski said.
However, some government officials are less neutral on the topic.
Westfield Center passed an ordinance Tuesday evening that prohibits the growing, processing or dispensing of medical marijuana within the village limits.
The ordinance says the new legislation allows municipalities to adopt restrictions that will limit the statewide law.
Mayor Tom Horwedel said the village passed the resolution in an effort to keep drugs out of the area.
The city of Medina also is reviewing the scope and legality of passing a similar ordinance. Depending on the findings of the city law director, a resolution may be presented at the City Council meeting Monday, Mayor Dennis Hanwell said.
County employees won’t see a change either. Human Resources Director Holly Muren told commissioners earlier this week that the new legislation will not change the ban on county employees using marijuana.
Several companies interested in providing services related to the marijuana industry have approached the Medina County Economic Development Corp. Executive director Bethany Dentler said her organization is not working with any of these businesses.
Though the economic development corporation has not taken a formal position on the issue, she said there are concerns that employees will come to their jobs after using the drug, possibly posing a higher chance for injury.
“We’ve been concerned with the potential effects of legalizing marijuana in Ohio because of its effect on the workplace (and) safety issues,” she said.
Like law enforcement and Sextant Development, Dentler said her organization’s approach to the new laws won’t be finalized until the state sets up the structure for medical marijuana production and sale in Ohio.
“We’re almost in a holding pattern before all the regulations are sorted out,” she said.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Dobbins at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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