Getting your “pot card”

In addition to federal and state law, local ordinances may limit growers, dispensaries, and individuals.

By Tim Walker

In June 2016, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 523 into law, thereby making Ohio one of 29 states that have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. The new law, which took effect in September of that year, created a timeline in which the Ohio Department of Commerce and the State Board of Pharmacy were required to ensure that Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program was up and running no later than September 2018. The program had a mandate to create an established structure for Ohioans with a qualifying medical condition to be able to obtain a recommendation for medical marijuana, purchase it from a licensed dispensary, and consume it in the state.

In theory therefore, beginning in September of this year, if you’re an Ohio citizen over the age of 21 and a qualified doctor has certified that you suffer from one of 21 different qualifying medical conditions—conditions which include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Multiple Sclerosis, Glaucoma, Cancer, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, and HIV, among others—you will be able to purchase and use legally approved marijuana products (tinctures, oils, patches, edibles, and plant-based material for vaporizing) from up to 60 approved retail dispensaries in designated districts throughout the state. If only it were that easy, however.

Immediately after the new law was adopted, city councils across Ohio began passing legislation to ban the sale, cultivation, and distribution of medical marijuana within their borders. Locally, communities such as Oakwood, Miamisburg, Moraine, Springboro, and West Carrollton have all said “No, thank you,” to the state’s puff-puff-pass marijuana overtures. Other localities, however, such as Beavercreek, Riverside, and Yellow Springs—no surprise there—have approved tentative plans to sell land to legally licensed cultivators of cannabis.

“We are opening medical clinics throughout the state,” says Connor Shore, president of Ohio Medical Alliance, LLC. His company is the corporation behind, a website where those with qualifying medical conditions can begin the process of getting certified to legally use the previously prohibited substance. “We’re starting with six of the large cities: Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Akron, Cincinnati, and Toledo. And we’ll have an office in each of those cities, and we’ll staff it with doctors who are certified to recommend medical marijuana. We’ll operate those clinics and make sure everything is in compliance, and we’re going to make sure this is done the right way.”

One of the major difficulties in this country with states that choose to legalize the use of cannabis, either recreationally or medicinally, is that the possession of even a small amount of marijuana is still a federal crime. Under federal law, marijuana is considered a Schedule I substance, which is defined as “no currently accepted medical use in the United States” and has a high potential for abuse; other examples of substances listed in Schedule I are heroin, LSD, peyote, and ecstasy. Therefore, it is a violation of federal law to use, possess, cultivate, or distribute marijuana—in other words, while each of the fifty states is free to pass and enforce its own marijuana laws, these laws cannot overturn or preempt federal law. It’s in all of our best interests to understand the federal penalties for marijuana possession and distribution, and that there are still federal sentencing guidelines for possession of even the smallest amounts of pot. These could include, for a first offense, up to a year of incarceration and a $1,000 fine.

Also, in addition to federal penalties for possession, legally registered cannabis users in the state have another issue to consider—they’ll no longer be able to legally possess firearms. According to guidelines stated in an open December 2017 letter from the ATF to licensed Ohio firearm dealers, any use of marijuana is unlawful and gun dealers are prohibited from providing guns or ammunition to anyone they believe is using pot. “There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana…even if such is sanctioned by state law,” the memo says.

None of this is slowing down the people behind the clinics, however. “Once you book an appointment online, we’ll send you an intake form,” continues Connor Shore, walking me through the process. “It’s an initial intake form, some of our patients complete it at home, others choose to do it in the office. But with that intake form is a release which allows us to collect medical records—the purpose of the evaluation is to make sure that the patient isn’t pregnant, and that there aren’t any offenses which might prevent the patient from being approved. A doctor will then evaluate the patient and make the determination if they qualify for a marijuana card.”

It’s enough to make you want to call Dr. Feelgood.

For more information or to begin the qualification process, ask your doctor or call 866-457-5559 or visit

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

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