State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) announced his opposition to the medical marijuana bill, House Bill (HB) 523, that the Republican majority brought up for a vote on the House floor today. The bill passed the House by a 70 to 25 vote. 

HB 523 creates a nine member commission, governed under the Department of Commerce, which is charged with licensing retail dispensaries and growers of the substance as well as registering physicians. The bill limits the forms of marijuana that may be used for medical use to oils, plant materials, edibles and patches that must be re-validated every 90 days. It also prohibits the dispensing, cultivating or processing of medical marijuana within 1000 feet of a school, church, public library, playground or public park.

However, it was restrictions on working people that seek treatment under the new law that forced Rep. Boccieri to vote no on the issue.

“Unbelievably, this legislation permits employers to terminate workers who use medical marijuana,” Boccieri said. “To add insult to injury, it also denies employees workers’ compensation if they test positive at work and are fired for seeking treatment. The legislature cannot have it both ways – either this is legitimate medicine that improves the quality of life for people, or it’s not.”

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to promulgate rules confirming any medical benefits to marijuana use, although 24 states have enacted legislation permitting its use. 

Last November, Ohio voters soundly defeated a state constitutional amendment that included a provision to legalize medical marijuana and set up distribution centers.

“It’s very hard for me to force something upon voters that they soundly rejected - especially a law that allows you to be fired and denied benefits for using a substance the legislature now deems medicine,” Boccieri added. “The FDA needs to confirm viable medical uses of this once-controlled substance that has sent many people to prison.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. 

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