COLUMBUS, Ohio — Medical marijuana may be legal in Ohio and 28 other states, but the plant’s presence on the federal government’s list of most dangerous drugs has created numerous legal problems for doctors, researchers, businesses and patients.
Sen. Kenny Yuko, a Richmond Heights Democrat, introduced a resolution urging Congress and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous controlled substance. Cannabis is currently classified as a Schedule I substance alongside heroin and ecstasy — drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Because of that classification, researchers must jump through several hoops to study cannabis and are limited to government-grown marijuana that differs from what’s sold in legal state markets. The classification also limits banks and other financial institutions from serving marijuana-related businesses.
But Ohio has already run into several problems because of the state-federal conflict. Initially, attorneys weren’t able to advise clients on the state law. State colleges, the only entities allowed to test medical marijuana products at first, have declined to do so because it would risk federal funding.
Several communities have banned medical marijuana businesses because of safety concerns about large amounts of cash flowing through unbanked businesses.
Congress doesn’t have to act on such resolutions, but they’re a way lawmakers can send a message to Washington.
The DEA declined last year to change marijuana’s classification but pledged to open up more avenues for research. The agency’s marijuana fact sheet notes negative effects of marijuana consumption including memory problems but also says there have been no deaths reported from marijuana overdoses.
Yuko’s proposed resolution doesn’t say where marijuana should be placed, but congressmen have proposed moving it to Schedule II or III. Schedule II contains opioids such as oxycodone and other prescribed narcotics. Schedule III includes Tylenol with codeine, testosterone and Marinol, a synthetic version of cannabis chemical THC.
Ohio House lawmakers proposed urging Congress to classify marijuana as a Schedule II substance in its version of the medical marijuana law. But that provision was stripped from the bill in the Senate and didn’t make it into the final law.
“The families of sick children who have used this product know how important it is,” Yuko said. “But researchers are afraid to study cannabis, and legal businesses are forced to remain cash-only, because the government still views it as dangerous.”
Ohio’s medical marijuana law allows people with one of 21 medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a physician. State officials are still setting up the program, which must be operational by September 2018.