Looming medical marijuana bill has some in Ohio hopeful, others uncertain

CINCINNATI — As a historic measure to legalize medical marijuana in the Buckeye State heads to Gov. John Kasich for his signature, people in one industry are wondering how the new law might impact them.

According to the bill, which narrowly passed the Ohio Senate Wednesday, the law would not allow smoking or growing marijuana, but would let individuals with certain, chronic health issues ingest the drug in vapor form, using a marijuana-extracted oil.

The problem? The Food and Drug Administration recently ordered nearly all electronic cigarette and vaporizer products taken off the market over the next two years.

This has left business-owners like Jeff Kathman, with e-cig retailer Cincy Vapors, wondering where they stand.

“I don’t have any idea what the rules, regulations, how and why it can be sold, or where it can be sold,” he said. “It’ll eliminate this business totally, maybe there’s avenue for the medical marijuana facility.”

But, while Kasich still has not committed to signing the bill, advocates like Scott Nazzarine remain hopeful about what the bill means as far as progressing toward looser restrictions on marijuana.

Nazzarine, who has worked with the advocacy group Ohioans for Medical Marijuana for the last six years, supports legalizing the drug for medicinal use if for no other reason than his daughter: She lives with epilepsy, a condition that has shown to be treatable using a derivative of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

“It’s definitely progress,” he told WCPO. “I’m very happy; I’m thankful for what they’ve done.”

Nazzarine said he hopes approval from Kasich could open the door for more broad legalization down the road.

“I hope maybe they’ll see that, you know, the sky doesn’t fall when they start at this point, and maybe, you know, baby steps,” he said. “They’ll get to a point where it’s a little bit better.”

Ashley Pope’s 3-year-old daughter, Briahna, also lives with epilepsy, diagnosed with the disease when she was just 9 months old. Ashley says, as Briahna gets older, her seizures get more severe and more frequent.

“The fear is that, every single time it happens, you just want to find a way,” she said. “You want to do everything as a mother that you can to make it stop.”

Briahna is currently on two different kinds of medications to treat her disease. If those two don’t stop a seizure, she takes a third drug. After that, it’s a call to 911.

Like Nazzarine, Ashley is hopeful Kasich will sign the bill into law: “We’re incredibly optimistic that this is the path that could potentially help our family create some sort of normalcy in our lives.”

Ashley and Scott’s hopes are not unfounded. As WCPO reported last year, the Benton family, originally from Ohio, moved to Colorado last year for their daughter, Addyson, who suffered from hundreds of seizures per day. Addyson’s parents, Heather and Adam, later told WCPO that the drug has helped her daughter tremendously, reducing her seizures from hundreds to just a dozen or so per day.

Here’s the Bentons’ story from last spring:

 

WCPO Insider members can read more about Addyson's story here.

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