Analysis by Kyle A. Lohmeier
Only government could screw up something as simple as letting people use a plant that grows wild on six continents and has been used by humans for almost as long as there have been humans. And, Ohio House Bill 523 is a sterling example of how to make the simple and logical complicated and stupid by getting government involved. Only government could create a medical marijuana bill that specifically prohibits smoking marijuana, and that prohibition is just one of the many fun aspects of HB 523. No, seriously, patients can’t smoke it. Patients can vaporize it, or render it into an edible, but smoking weed would still be illegal for people with legal weed cards in Ohio under the provisions of this bill.
In addition to not legalizing weed, HB 523 also mandates the creation of something called the Medical Marijuana Control Commission. Because, a plant needs a state-level control commission. But hey, everyone on it gets a per diem, so, it’s all good. And, there will be quite a few people on it as the law requires membership of the commission be comprised of one each of: a practicing physician, a cop, a representative of employers, a labor representative, someone to represent drug addiction counselors, someone to represent mental health professionals, a pharmacist, a person who supports the legalization of medical marijuana and a member who represents patients. The governor gets to pick which one is the chairperson.
It’s probably good to have a huge number of people from diverse backgrounds all try to work out what’s best for sick people. And, the bill would provide them with plenty of work to do. They’d be tasked with, among other things, establishing a medical marijuana control program that provides for the registration of physicians who recommend treatment with medical marijuana, the registration of patients who seek treatment with medical marijuana and their caregivers as well as the licensure of growers, processors and retailers. They’ll also need to sort out the licensure of laboratories that test medical marijuana.
Even after all that, the Medical Marijuana Control Commission’s job isn’t even half-done. The commission must also establish application procedures and license fees for patients, growers, retailers, recommending physicians and laboratories and figure out what criminal offenses should disqualify people from eligibility for a license, and then specify what conditions must be met for eligibility. Also, the commission will get to determine how many cultivator and retail licenses will be permitted at one time. So, the weed monopoly that ResponsibleOhio almost got written into the constitution last year via ballot initiative has now been taken over by the state, where it can be given to whomever they choose.
The bill also requires the commission to create a database that logs the number of patients for whom medical marijuana has been recommended, the types of diseases and conditions for which treatment was recommended and the forms and methods of medical marijuana to be used. Also, the commission is to establish an electronic database that will “monitor medical marijuana from seed source through cultivation, processing, testing and dispensing.”
As busy as the Medical Marijuana Control Commission will be if this bill were to become law, doctors wishing to recommend marijuana for their patients will have their workloads increased as well. To even be able to recommend marijuana to their patients, they will first have to apply for a license to do so, and in the process demonstrate they don’t have any financial stakes in dispensaries or weed farms or the like. Then, when recommending medical marijuana to a patient, the doctor will have to specify the forms of medical marijuana to be dispensed, the concentration of THC allowed, and the one of more methods the patient may use it; keeping in mind that smoking it would still be illegal. The recommendation would only be valid for 90 days, and then the patient would need to go through a follow-up exam to have it renewed.
Between those patient visits, the doctor will be busy as he or she will have to maintain a file on that patient that includes the disease that the weed was recommended to treat, the one or more reasons why treatment with weed was suggested rather than something else and the one or more forms or methods of medical marijuana specified for use. The doctor will also need to submit a report every 90 days that includes all the aforementioned information. Annually, the doctor must submit a report that describes his or her observations regarding the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating patients during that year.
Oh, and doctors are specifically barred from dispensing weed themselves, or writing themselves a recommendation.
And, there’s more, much, much more. The PDF of the bill summary is 74 pages.
Seventy-four words would be more than necessary to write a bill that actually makes sense. A legislative body can dream up a lot of really dumb things within 74 pages, and the Ohio House Committee that put this bill together pretty much got every dumb idea imaginable into its text. Leave it to government to find it necessary to create a brand new bureaucracy and loads more red tape for people to deal with in the process of “legalizing” something.
Nobody needs a Medical Marijuana Control Commission. Nobody needs a recommendation from a doctor to use marijuana. Nobody needs to pay a doctor for an office visit or co-pay every 90 days to use marijuana. Nobody needs to be told how much marijuana to use and in what forms. There is no reason to suspect any doctor is suddenly an expert on how much THC a patient needs in gummy bear form to treat their glaucoma, or chronic wrist pain, or any other malady.
In short, this bill and this story perfectly encapsulates the absurdity and futility of the state, and therefore was a natural choice for the inaugural posting of the maiden voyage of The New Mercury. Stick around, I don’t have anything better to do than this, so, there’ll be more.
Update: 5/10/15 1:30 p.m.: The Ohio House passed the bill onto the Senate.