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House Bill 523 became Ohio law effective Sept. 8 of this year. With its passage, Ohio became another state to allow the use of marijuana for qualifying medical conditions. The law also provides for an affirmative defense against a charge for possession.

What are the qualifying medical conditions?

In states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, citizens can use marijuana for any reason whatsoever – they don’t need a doctor’s prescription – but states like Ohio do require a prescription, and that prescription can only be had if the patient can demonstrate that he or she has a qualifying medical condition. The law does provide for a petition process for adding a disease or illness to the roster.

Qualifying conditions include:

· AIDS

· HIV+ status

· Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

· Alzheimer’s disease

· Cancer

· Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)

· Crohn’s disease

· Epilepsy or other seizure disorder

· Fibromyalgia

· Glaucoma

· Hepatitis C

· Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

· Multiple sclerosis (MS)

· Chronic pain

· Parkinson’s disease

· Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

· Sickle cell anemia

· Spinal cord disease or injury

· Tourette’s syndrome

· Traumatic brain injury

· Ulcerative colitis

The affirmative defense

The longstanding history of marijuana’s legal status is well known. It remains classified as a dangerous drug under the federal government’s regulatory scheme. Various states have decriminalized marijuana, made it available for medical use, or outright legalized it for recreational use.

In Ohio, as in all other states prior to decriminalization and legalization, possessing marijuana was (and still is) a crime. However, under House Bill 523, to have a valid doctor’s prescription for medical use is an affirmative defense. In other words, medical marijuana users may be immune from prosecution for certain marijuana-related crimes.