Medical Marijuana…Is It a Big Deal?


Marijuana as medicine is a big deal, there’s no doubt about it. When an illicit substance becomes more readily available, it can have a big impact on a community. That’s why we feel it’s important to share some important facts about the new law with everyone in Summit County.

On June 9, 2016, Governor Kasich signed HB523 into law legalizing marijuana as medicine in the state of Ohio. Ninety days later, the law went into effect and is mandated to be fully operational by September 9, 2018. The Ohio Medical Marijuana Committee was created to operationalize the law and has been meeting faithfully to do just that.

Here are a few key points from the law:

  1. Patients can get a recommendation from a physician to use marijuana as medicine to treat one of twenty-one qualifying medical conditions
  2. It cannot be smoked
  3. It can be vaped
  4. Edibles are permitted, but cannot be attractive to children
  5. It cannot be home grown
  6. It cannot be within 500 feet of a school, playground, child care center, church or public library
  7. Maximum amounts of THC (the component that creates a high) are identified
  8. Employers are not required to accommodate use, possession or distribution

Many local cities and municipalities have put a moratorium on marijuana as medicine so that they can research the pros and cons of allowing grow sites, production and distribution channels within their limits. Akron is currently considering zoning requirements for medical marijuana industries. Norton recently passed ordinances prohibiting medical marijuana businesses anywhere in the city.

Now that you’re all caught up, we also feel like it’s important we look at the ways this could impact our community. As a coalition dedicated to reducing the impact of alcohol and other drug abuse in Summit County, it should come as no surprise that we have some concerns about the legalization of marijuana as medicine.

  1. Approving marijuana legislatively leaves residents without the safeguards that other medicines receive from the FDA. Doctors do not know dosage, contraindications, restrictions for use while driving or at work, storage requirements and side effects. This puts a patient at risk.
  2. Legalizing substances increases youth usage rates. A recent study found that medical marijuana laws amplify recreational juvenile marijuana use. States with medical marijuana only laws occupy second and third place in youth usage rates behind Colorado who has legalized marijuana recreationally.
  3. Medical marijuana reduces the perception of harm by youth which increases their risk of using it recreationally. Marijuana use among youth has been linked to decreased IQ, decreased motivation and decreased likelihood of graduating from high school/college or maintaining employment.

As you can see, medical marijuana is a complex issue. We must weigh the potential benefits and risks to our entire community as we decide whether to allow grow sites, distribution centers and/or dispensaries in our neighborhoods. You are invited to join us at our next Medical Marijuana Policy Committee meeting on Thursday, June 22nd, at 9:30 a.m. at the Akron Community Foundation.