Ohio’s medical marijuana: What’s really going on?

A year after Gov. John Kasich signed Ohio’s medical marijuana program into law, state regulators are starting to formalize how and where pot will be grown and available to medical patients.

Here are answers to the key questions about the program.

1. Who will be able to obtain medical marijuana?

The law creating Ohio’s medical marijuana control program lists 21 conditions qualifying someone to obtain medical marijuana. They are: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis.

RELATED: Expert says 24 percent of Ohio’s 11.6 million person population could qualify to use medical marijuana

The law allows the State of Ohio Medical Board to add conditions to this list.

Someone with one of these condition will need to register and then get a recommendation — federal law prohibits doctors from prescribing marijuana — from a qualified physician.

2. What forms of marijuana will be available?

Patients will be allowed to buy marijuana in plant form, but they have to promise not to smoke it when they get home.

Instead they will be required to eat it or inhale it with a vaporizer. Smoking or combusting marijuana could lead to illegal possession charges.

MAP: Where Ohio’s medical marijuana could be grown in the region

The law also allows oils, tinctures, edibles and patches.

It does not allow packaging that would make it attractive to children.

The companies vying to operate in Ohio sell products in other states with names like Green Crack, Bubba Kush and Durban Poison, which may all be offered in Ohio.

3. Where will marijuana be grown and sold?

The law does not allow users to grow their own plants. Instead, the state will issue two dozen licenses for strictly regulated growing facilities across the state.

Industry experts and insiders say these licenses will likely go to large, multi-state companies.

RELATED: Multi-state companies major players in Ohio’s budding medical pot trade

The state has not released possible locations, but reporting by this news agency identified several in our area.

The state will also issue license for processing marijuana and selling it at dispensaries.

A draft proposal on how dispensaries will be distributed splits Ohio into four regions and puts 15 in southwest Ohio. The state originally announced they would allow four dispensaries in Montgomery County, but later said that was a mistake and lowered the number to three.

RELATED: Southwest Ohio allowed to have 15 medical marijuana stores

Greene, Madison and Fayette counties combined would get one dispensary. Clark, Champaign and Union counties would get two. Butler, Preble and Darke counties would get two. Hamilton County would get three.

4. When will medical marijuana be available?

State officials say rulemaking for the program should be done in September of this year.

Ohio’s medical marijuana program is supposed to become operational in September 2018.

5. How much will patients be allowed to have?

A qualifying patient will be able to obtain a 90-day supply of medical marijuana, though state regulators are still working to determine how much that is.

6. Isn’t marijuana still illegal under federal law?

The looming question for the entire industry in Ohio and other states where marijuana is legal is whether federal authorities will change their approach to medical marijuana. Currently the Justice Department is operating under the so-called “Cole Memo,” outlining the framework under which states can operate marijuana programs without inviting legal scrutiny.

RELATED: Ohio senator wants feds to lift prohibition on marijuana

But current U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an ardent critic of marijuana legalization, and has sought increased authority to enforce the federal ban.

7. Can you get fired for using medical marijuana?

Ohio law preserves employers’ rights to have a drug-free workplace, so it allows companies to prohibit employees from using medical marijuana.

Our I-Team investigation also found that the thousands of federal employees at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and base contractors will be prohibited from using medical marijuana because under federal law, pot is still illegal. The same is true for Wright State University, which says in it's policy that they are a federal contractor. Sinclair College is still silent on the issue.

RELATED: Medical marijuana in the workplace

7. Does the program provide assistance with drug addiction?

Per the state:

“If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call 877-275-6364 for information and a referral. Talk with your children about the importance of living healthy, drug-free lives – visit StartTalking.Ohio.gov for information and resources.”

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