Deconstructing The Ohio Medical Cannabis Act of 2012

Submitted by Lory Kohn on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 13:17.

"No, Dave, I don't happen to believe medical marijuana initiatives like OMCA2012 serve the needs of the people. Repealing federal marijuana prohibition serves the needs of the people, thank you."

Wouldn't you know it, when I'd finally freed up time to deconstruct The Ohio Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 [OMCA2012], Grohio Attorney General Mike DeWine had beat me to it.

There was something about the group's petition that rubbed me the wrong way. Its intention to serve the interests of "the sick and dying solely" was particularly inflammatory. Above and beyond the litany of "content flaws" DeWine found before summarily rejecting the petition, its language was clumsy, amateurish, and written in a self-congratulatory tone which contributed mightily to its demise.

Citizens of Grohio, if you only knew what a huge favor Mr. De Wine has done you!

You've been handed a reprieve to reconsider whether you're really OK with accepting such a pitifully small amount of freedom for a fraction of the people ... or whether it makes more sense to just go ahead and put the same effort into repealing federal prohibition. The latter concept unchains the star commodity, clearing the way for recreational and industrial usage, too. It offers exponentially more freedom for everyone, providing the impetus for a whole heckuva lot more jobs, cannatax, and contribution to GDP.

Repealing prohibition for the entire country — not laboring to set up a constricted, "me-too" medical marijuana system in Grohio — is the cause that would have motivated Martin Luther King if he were alive today and working ceaselessly for herbal rights instead of civil rights.

In Cannarado, I've witnessed firsthand the destruction medical marijuana leaves in its wake. Therefore I urge you to pour your time and effort into the more worthwhile crusade.

Chastened by the attorney general, I presume OMCA is rewriting its petition.

That would leave me nothing to analyze at the moment, that is, if the organization hadn't conveniently included a "Questions and Answers" section on its website, My reaction? Same as the Attorney General's. Suffice it to say that if OMCA2012 wants to see the light of day, scouring the countryside for a professional writer intimately familiar with the language of successful medical marijuana initiatives should be priority number one.

Let's zoom in on the Q+A for a closer look at OMCA2012's positioning. To follow along, Q = question; OMCA = the Ohio Medical Cannabis Act's answer; CC = me reading between the lines for Cannabis Commerce.

Q:  "12 Immature Plants and 12 Mature, isn't that a lot?"

OMCA:  Not at all. For many patients, a consistant [sic] ...

CC:  A Winnebago's worth of pot is a lot. You can easily cram a ton or more into one of those babies. Twelve plants here and there? That's nothing. Also, after being blasted by the Attorney General for content flaws, most organizations would spell check content before posting it on their sites.

OMCA: ... and steady supply of medical marijuana is essential for treatment. Most doctors wouldn't recomend [spelling again] missing doses of a medication, ...

CC:  Most doctors wouldn't recommend marijuana in any supply, since pharmaceutical drugs are what they're trained to prescribe by medical schools who charge them a quarter million dollars for the education. One nasty little irony of medical marijuana is that it actually blocks clinical studies from taking place, studies which could confirm cannabis' tumor-fighting capability. That's because when your state votes for medical marijuana, you tacitly accept the DEA's stance that cannabis is a Schedule One drug like heroin, cocaine, and oxycontin. Presently, not even Big Pharma can conduct clinical studies on Schedule One drugs.

OMCA:  ... the same holds true for medical marijuana. By designating 12 mature plants and 12 immature as the limit, we ensure that patients will have access to their medicine on a regular basis. 12 plants isn't as much as it seems, with home growers usually obtaining a fraction of the quantity of marijuana from each plant that a commercial cultivator would achieve.

CC:  Why on earth would anyone voluntarily place a pathetically low limit on the amount of herb someone can grow? Any American can grow all the tobacco that they want. Any American can homebrew all the beer that they want. Any american can plant all the basil that they want. Why exactly should growing weed be capped at twelve plants? Let me guess. Cause if someone grew more than that, then that "patient" could sell the excess to his friends? The horror! OMCA2012 offers no explanation why it feels people are terrified by twelve plants. Most pot aficionados wish they could tear off their clothes and run naked through fields of the stuff.

Q:  Do patients have a right to personally cultivate?

OMCA:  Yes, patients may cultivate their own source of medical marijuana for personal consumption. Patients are protected if they do not possess more than 200 grams of Usable Cannabis; and twelve immature and twelve mature cannabis plants. ...

CC:  Hmm. Let's see, 454 grams to a pound ... that means 200 grams is less than half a pound. Who buys less than a pound of sugar? Or flour? Who doesn't have a pound of coffee around? Or a pound of bananas? What's a sixpack weigh? But Grohioans are supposed to crawl for the right to possess less than half a pound of cannabis? As for the word "protected," that'll never fly as long as federal prohibition remains in force. Protection? You want protection? Go have a talk with Don Corleone on the day of his daughter's wedding.

Make no mistake — a vote for medical marijuana is a vote against repealing prohibition.

OMCA: ... Seeds, seedlings, stalks, roots and the weight of any non-cannabis ingredients combined with cannabis (such as ingredients added to prepare a topical administration, food or drink) are not considered as usable cannabis and thus are not considered in the total weight.

CC:  This absurdly limiting and nitpicky language is characteristic of every medical marijuana amendment. It clearly implies that cannabis lovers are second class citizens unfit to make personal choices. Cannabis is a substance that should be legal. Period. Enough bending over with silly, apologetic language about stems, seedlings, stalks, and twigs.

At a posh supper club in Zanesville, Mick Jagger, Madonna, and Tony Curtis react to the sobering news that Grohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected OMCA2012's MMJ petition.

Q:  What conditions qualify a patient ...

CC:  Hold it right there. The word "patient" substituted for "person" is a sign of surrender, a sure indicator that this patient rights group has no real conviction for its cause. And why should it? Its cause is misguided. Do only black patients get to vote? Do only women patients get to vote? Are only gay patients entitled to protection from discrimination in the workplace? I think not.

There's something seriously amiss with the concept that someone has to be a sick and dying "patient" to merit marijuana. Never before in the long and storied history of American activism has a group been so content to ask for one-twentieth of what it's entitled to. The groveling by patient rights groups is off the charts.

Q:  ... for access to medical marijuana?

OMCA:  [The organization provides a laundry list of "qualifying afflictions."]

CC:  OK. No one promised me a hypocrisy-free life, or life on a hypocrisy-free planet. But this is a little too much. Let me see if I've got this right. I can pull a semi up to a liquor store, fill it to the brim with everything from beer to single malt scotch, pay for it, and drive off — whether or not I have a "debilitating medical condition." And I can pull another semi up to a supermarket, fill it up with every carton of cigarettes they have, pay for it, and drive off — whether or not I have a debilitating medical condition. But I have to endure a battery of tests at the Cleveland Clinic, at my own expense, to prove I'm f**ked up enough to rate a miserable 200 grams of the magical weed? Grohioans are supposed to be pumped up this munificence is coming their way, courtesy of OMCA2012? And not only that, they're supposed to consider its provisions somehow superior to MMJ regulations in other states? Let's get this out of the way early: despite OMCA2012's claims, there's no fundamental difference between its proposal and every other MMJ initiative that's come down the pike.

Q:  "What will it cost me to get a patient ID card?"

OMCA:  The cost of a patient ID will be set by the Commission of Medical Cannabis Control ...

CC:  Sounds straight out of 1984. For good reason.

OMCA  ... but it "shall not exceed double the cost of a drivers license." ...

CC:  Well, that's random. It's also like paying an annual fee to get food stamps. Who would put up with that? I have nothing against the concept of generating tax revenue from cannatax. Far from it. Matter of fact, I'm all over it. But imposing an annual fee which singles out the cannabis industry alone falls somewhere between un-American and unconstitutional.

Imagine having to apply for a special license and purchase a doctor's recommendation in order to buy booze or cigarettes. If an edict like that was put into effect, people would march on the statehouse brandishing pitchforks, torches, and scythes, picketing until the abominable law was abolished.

That's right, applicants need to pay for medical evaluations, too. Annually, of course. Medical marijuana = you get to pay $150 or more per year in state fees and examination fees for the right to buy marijuana. That's a right many feel is god-given. God-given rights like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness don't usually come with accompanying fees. Meanwhile, repealing prohibition = no annual fee, no annual doctor expense. I've cast my lot with repealing prohibition. Which option works best for you?

OMCA:  ... Presently a drivers [sic] license in Ohio is roughly $25. In other medical marijuana states the fee for a patient ID ranges from $0.00 in New Mexico where taxpayers must cover the cost, in Colorado it's $90, Michigan $100, Arizona $150 and $200 in New Jersey.

CC:  So, if you're sick and dying, and you've already exhausted your life savings, you need to place yourself further in debt to opt for herbal relief? Annual fees to buy herbs are "odious," as old school attorneys used to say. Beaucoup cannatax can be collected from sales tax, income tax, and sin tax. And certain people, the ones who are truly sick and impoverished [generally thought to be maybe 10% of cardholders in states like Cannarado and Cannafornia], should never have to pay any tax on their, ahem, "meds."

Q:  "I am considering becoming a medical marijuana patient, but I am still scared I could get arrested. Will this Ballot protect me?"

OMCA:  The Ohio Medical Cannabis Act provides registered patients with greater protections from arrest and prosecution using the most robust patient's rights of any present medical marijuana law. ...

CC:  There's that self-congratulatory tone I was talking about. What about the 45,000 marijuana "offenders" currently clogging our prisons, 1,000 of whom are serving life sentences? What does OMCA2012 have to say about protecting them? Nothing. They can rot there, because only meeting the needs of "the sick and dying" is meaningful in OMCA's proposed amendment, or in any medical marijuana initiative to date. The "sick and dying" are elevated to an elite class. They ride on the upper deck of The Titanic. But what about the people who have already been arrested? What about them? Compare this scenario with repealing prohibition. Then everyone gets their "meds." Everyone is set free. Again, as a rational human being, which of these options works best for you?

OMCA:  ... Because the proposed law is based upon existing Ohio laws governing the regulation of spirituous beverages ...

CC:  I presume the authors are talking about alcohol. Why assume anyone knows what "spirituous" means?

OMCA:  ... there are no gray areas ...

CC:  They're saying that Ohio laws governing the regulation of "spirituous beverages" somehow supersede federal marijuana prohibition. How does that work, exactly? I'll spare you the brain drain. It doesn't.

There are nothing but gray areas in any medical marijuana initiative. False bravado notwithstanding, this one is no different.

OMCA:  ... unlike in all other medical marijuana states ...

CC:  More self-congratulation, with no factual basis whatsoever.

OMCA:  ... and it will prevent any misunderstandings by law enforcement.

CC:  A blast of hot air. Grohio will be subject to the same endless "misunderstandings" [if you consider callously forcing existing businesses which jumped through every hoop onto the streets without compensation "misunderstandings"] by law enforcement on the city, county, state, and federal levels that are a fact of life in every other medical marijuana state. The only recourse for truly avoiding "misunderstandings" is repealing federal prohibition. Forgive my excessive harping on this point, but with the media and patient rights groups fixated on medical marijuana, prohibition repeal has become an afterthought. Someone has to remind you that there's another side to the story.

Cannabis Commerce suggests that the city and state which inspired American Splendor would be better advised to hold out for the repeal of prohibition instead of caving in to medical marijuana special interest groups.

Q:  "How do I know my children will not be able to get access to medical marijuana?"

CC:  There's no difference between "medical marijuana" and the same marijuana your kids already have access to. No standard for purity or potency exists in any medical marijuana state. OMCA could have instituted something truly groundbreaking by building these standards into its proposal. It didn't.

OMCA:  The Ohio Medical Cannabis Act is the first initiative of its kind ...

CC:  If the self-congratulatory tone turns me off, Attorney General DeWise's reaction was predictable.

OMCA:  ... to create a state agency to regulate and control the use of medical marijuana. Based on the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, a proven model with 77 years of enforcement experience, these laws will be to firmly and strictly enforced [sic]. ...

CC:  This is the first statement I've read that makes any sense. However, it omits one pertinent detail: who will finance this Big Brotherish agency's existence?

OMCA: ... Unlike the totally unregulated black-market for recreational drugs, ...

CC:  That would be the same totally unregulated black market for recreational drugs which has been providing the sick and dying with herbal relief all along.

OMCA:  ... well regulated, closely guarded, and strictly enforced laws provide a highly effective system to prevent access to medical marijuana by children and all others not authorized as patients. ...

CC:  There is zero evidence that children are getting their hands on any medical marijuana in any medical marijuana state under their presumably less progressive regulatory agencies, like Cannarado's Department of Revenue and Cannafornia's Board of Equalization.

How many stories have you read about preschoolers toddling over to dispensaries to trade milk money for activated brownies? I believe the answer is "none."

"Look what I just traded my milk money for over at Buckeye Buds!"

OMCA:  While the governing infrastructure of the Ohio Commission of Cannabis Control is modeled off of the Ohio Commission of Liquor Control, the rules to be enforced are by no means the same and are written to greatly support the rights of patients while preventing access for recreational use.

CC:  Poorly written, vague, and why shouldn't the rules be the same? You turn 21, you can buy all the weed you want. But if you're caught driving under the influence, you pay a fine and/or perform community service. What's wrong with copying that exactly, since it's based on "a proven model for 77 years?"

Q:  "How do I know this is really for sick and dying people and not just recreational users looking for a way to use marijuana?"

OMCA:  Unlike in most medical marijuana states, the Ohio Medical Cannabis Act requires doctors to give physical exams ...

CC:  Untrue and self-aggrandizing. And what training do MDs receive in med school to prescribe marijuana, anyway? The answer again would be "none." OMCA's authors are, for unknown reasons, hung up on feeling superior to authors of other medical marijuana initiatives. Hello — their initiatives passed, while yours hasn't even made it out of the review stage. Perhpas a dose of humility is in order. All that bragging is transparent. It doesn't make people more sympathetic, it makes them more skeptical. When people get skeptical, they kill your petitions.

OMCA:  ... This will prevent the so-called 'doctor-mills,' [sic] and help limit registration to those in Ohio who are truly in need.

CC:  It prevents Grohioans from breeding doctors? How about preventing "doctor mills" by eliminating prohibition, since requiring doctors' notes to purchase a naturally occurring plant is asinine in the first place? Let's tackle the question, "How do I know this is really for sick and dying people and not just recreational users looking for a way to use marijuana?" There's no valid reason on god's green earth to limit the recreational aspects of one particular plant. And where exactly did this moral, ethical or spiritual prejudice against recreational marijuana originate? Don't bother thumping a bible to find out. All the good book tells us is that holy oil was hash oil. It comes from superstition, from the same dark reaches of the mind that fueled the Salem Witch Trials. And it lingers from propaganda devised in the 1930s to justify the existence of pre-DEA anti-drug agencies after alcohol prohibition was repealed. People have looked for ways to use marijuana since the dawn of time, by and large because it's good for us. The real problem with OMCA2012's amendment — and every other medical marijuana initiative — is that they are intended solely for the benefit of a privileged few. That is not the way things are supposed to work in the land of the free and the home of the brave, where all people are presumed to be created equal.

Repealing prohibition restores equality. Passing OMCA2012 creates a privileged class where the sick and dying become royalty and the rest of us eat cake. No, thanks!

If the citizens of Grohio hold out for the repeal of marijuana prohibition, they will be really glad they did, too.

Q:  "Will I lose my job if my employer finds out I am a medical marijuana patient?"

OMCA:  Ohio is an "At Will" state and you can be fired for showing up late, or your choice of attire. However, there are specific anti-discrimination laws that prevent an employer from disciplining or firing their employees for race, sex, age, etc. ...

CC:  OK.

OMCA:  ... The Ohio Medical Cannabis Act adds new anti-discrimination language that prevents workplace abuses ...

CC:  Uh-oh. It prevents workplace abuses in your dreams.

OMCA:  ... and allows a medical marijuana patient to bring suit if they were blatantly discriminated against. ...

CC:  Workers can bring suit now for discrimination without OMCA2012 "allowing it." They'd lose now and they'll lose if this amendment ever passes — which has a snowball's chance in hell of overriding "at will" statutes in open court.

OMCA:  ... However, workplace and on the job use of medical marijuana can be banned by the employer and the OMCA 2012 provides clear language for employers to assure and protect their companies and fellow employees from any harm.

CC:  I suspect this vague, sloppily worded language attempts to ensure "patients" [a.k.a "people"] can't blow smoke in fellow workers faces during their ten-minute breaks.

Q:  "What will this medical marijuana program cost the taxpayers ?"

OMCA:  Nothing. No tax dollars will be used. The new state agency designed to regulate and control medical marijuana in Ohio will be 100% self supporting; financed by registration fees, permit fees, and a 1% excise tax on the wholesale cost of medical marijuana and any fines collected.

CC:  Miraculous. Startup takes place without any funds, since no taxes will have been collected? Did Jesus land a gig as commissioner of the Ohio Commission of Cannabis Control? Or does Grohio have to collect enough $50 fees [double the price of a driver's license, if I recall correctly] to fund its agency, then, a few years later, the first dispensaries may appear on the streets which inspired American Splendor? No tax dollars will be used? Then what kind of dollars will be used? Buckeye bucks? Donations? Found money? Money confiscated from conquered Afghanis and Iraqis? And how in the world did OMCA come up with a one percent excise [excise is used interchangeably with "sin"] tax?

How exactly will OMCA2012 help the people of Grohio and its decaying infrastructure by slapping a puny 1% sin tax on medical marijuana sales? Doesn't your state need to raise some impactful bucks, like every other state? Alcohol and tobacco sin taxes run as high as 50% in some states. How much objection would there be to, say a 20% sin/excise tax on cannabis?

There are valid arguments against imposing sin taxes on cannabis [conscientious objections to taxing a "medicinal herb"], but the concept merits consideration.

Enough mirth for now, that's all OMCA2012 gets out of me gratis. If OMCA2012 really wants a bulletproof petition no one can rip to shreds, it knows where to find me. That would be over at, where Ten Reasons Why Medical Marijuana is Cannabis Commerce's Ball and Chain dissects the misguided mission of patient rights groups in gruesome detail.

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