Ohio’s Republican governor John Kasich made waves last year when he signed an expansive medical marijuana bill and brought the typically conservative Buckeye State into the world of legal weed. But when Kasich signed House Bill 523 almost a year ago, he also set up a system of delays that has restricted Ohio ganja-preneurs from opening dispensaries until regulations have been fully set, a feat that most state officials don’t expect to be complete before mid-2018.
In the meantime though, some Ohio doctors have already begun giving medical marijuana recommendations to patients suffering from one of the state’s 21 qualifying conditions. Patients are then taking that paperwork across state lines to Michigan where some Detroit-area pot shops are serving the out-of-state customers.
According to the Associated Press, doctors at Toledo-based Omni Medical Services has been operating under state regulations that allow medical professionals to give qualifying medical marijuana seekers “affirmative defense” letters that can be presented to police officers or court officials to prevent arrest in the months between legalization and implementation.
Of course, the letters don’t allow patients to break federal law and travel between states with their bud, but with relatively low penalties for personal possession in both states, the odds that federal law enforcement will bust a medical patient for interstate trafficking of an eighth or an edible is highly unlikely.
So far no one has been arrested for bringing pot from Michigan to Ohio with a doctor’s recommendation, but the “affirmative defense” letters have already saved at least one patient from arrest.
After cops raided his home in suburban Cleveland, one Ohioan presented officers with the letter from his physician and the medical paperwork to back it up, and not only was he allowed to go free from the possession arrest, the police actually returned the confiscated marijuana back to the patient.
“This is the gold standard for how it’s supposed to work.” Thomas Haren, the man’s attorney, told reporters.
So far doctors from Omni Medical Services have given recommendations and “affirmative defense” letters to hundreds of patients, with no plans to slow down.
“We know what we’re doing is legal. We’re out in the open. We’re not hiding in the dark.” Louis Johnson, Omni’s managing director, told the AP. “We’re not here to serve people to get high, that’s not what we’re about.”