Ambiguity and contradictions still plague marijuana laws

Despite the new law going into effect, much remains to be done
for true marijuana liberty.

By Brice Keller

Since September of 2016, Medical Marijuana has been legal in Ohio with a statutory right to an affirmative defense against simple marijuana possession when meeting a few factors set forth in House Bill 523. This development is largely due to a campaign for legalization in 2015 that provided for medical use, personal use, home grow for all, and even a follow-up expungement component. During the 2015 campaign, voters were led down a dark path that ultimately saw Ohio voters parrot falsehoods, propaganda, and outright lies from Mike Dewine, Jon Husted, and others. The reality is that on Nov. 3, 2015, your fellow citizens voted to support the status quo of injustice and moreover a system of racial and classist enslavement under false crimes.  There is no acceptable reason that a decent person would vote to criminalize marijuana against his or her fellow citizen. I wish I could tell you a different story, but 60 percent accepted the lies, voted down home grow, and even voted for a new law that allows the ballot board to quash future petitions they don’t like.

On a brighter note, many activists continued the fight during the Senate Listening Tour, Medical Marijuana Task Force, and Select Committee on Medical Marijuana activities that followed in the Spring of 2016. Ultimately the House and Senate passed a Medical Marijuana Bill (HB 523), which the governor signed. The bill became effective as of Sep. 8, 2016. The bill provides in basic terms that the State of Ohio would establish a Medical Marijuana Control Commission, license approximately 24 cultivators, license testing, and processors as well as establish a patient program. The bill further provides that smoking of medical marijuana is not an approved use or recommendation. The dispensaries which are supposed to be open starting September 2018 will provide flower, tinctures, oils, waxes, edibles, and other marijuana products, which include vaporizable products.

Much progress is yet to be won on marijuana. It is important for all citizens to keep the pressure on to expand marijuana liberty. It is accurate to say that some relief to persons suffering from the enumerated conditions can be had from the outset of the program, but it is unlikely that the current measure has any significant impact on the societal harms of marijuana prohibition as a whole. For example, nothing about this law affects past convictions, provides workplace protections, or curbs the disparate racial impact that plagues marijuana enforcement nationwide. Medical Marijuana card holders will likely be in jeopardy of gun restrictions or limitations on receiving a CCW permit as a result of law enforcement and corporate interest in maintaining criminalization
of marijuana.

The Thirteenth Amendment provides no slaves except in cases of criminal conviction, hence a drug war to convict and enslave minorities, and as a bonus, poor people of all races, too. This was the plan from the highest levels of the federal government nearly 100 years ago, and few jurisdictions don’t follow this game plan today. For those who will remain outside of the safety of the store-bought medical marijuana products, it shall continue like business as usual for Ohio decriminalization. The vast majority of Ohioans, like the majority of Americans, will simply procure marijuana from private producers. The reality is that while the new medical marijuana law does nothing to address the vast personal use market, it is clear that attitudes are quickly shifting away from this hateful practice of prohibition. I urge any citizen charged with marijuana possession to present defenses regarding therapeutic use of cannabis. The key moving forward is to advance marijuana liberty every little step we can.

In a hopeful 2018, we will see the first medical marijuana stores open in Ohio on Sep. 8, 2018, pass personal use at the ballot box, protect workplace and gun rights in the court, and elect a pro-cannabis governor. It was a struggle to get where we are today, but momentum is building on our side. The opposition to marijuana liberty becomes increasingly more brazen and disgusting in their resolve, but it is desperation. It very well could be that Mike DeWine continues to prosecute false drug crimes in some capacity or influence criminal justice enforcement to continue the drug war for some time. In the end, DeWine, certainly Jeff Sessions, and anyone else that invests in enslaving others shall reap what they sow. Each day more Americans get access to more and more cannabis and hemp products, but it shall also be so sweet as karma turns to the prohibitionists, sparing nothing but God’s wrath.

As I pen these words, I am spending my final weeks as a marijuana refugee in Colorado. As you read them, I shall be on my way back to Ohio, to resume my life in Dayton. Godspeed my fellow Daytonians, I look forward to seeing you on the trail to
Marijuana Liberty.

The views and opinions expressed are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Michael Brice Keller is a criminal defense attorney in Dayton who spends most days working on appointed counsel cases and public policy issues with his girlfriend and legal assistant Ashley. He’s a USAF Security Forces Veteran, former undercover investigator, police officer, and private military contractor. As a member of NORML and the founder of GreenFight ( he’s active in the reform of marijuana laws. You can reach him at

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