Ohio medical marijuana proponents’ initial fears that no university will step forward to begin testing the substance might soon become realities. Ohio State will not apply to be a testing facility for medical marijuana, possibly leaving a void in the state program set to move forward with selecting sites for testing by the end of September.
Under the new Ohio medical marijuana law, private laboratories are not allowed to run testing facilities for the first year of the program, instead leaving the responsibility on one of the state’s public higher education institutions.
The Ohio Department of Commerce will accept applications starting Sept. 11, and will decide what state schools will operate testing facilities for the recently legalized drug shortly after.
But university officials made it clear Ohio State will not be applying for a testing license, citing federal laws still banning medical marijuana.
“It is a challenging situation given that federal and state law are somewhat conflicted,” university spokesman Ben Johnson said in an email. “At this time, Ohio State is not pursuing any avenues to engage in testing because of the federal limitations of marijuana as a controlled substance.
The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has potential for abuse and no medical benefits, making it tricky for universities to conduct research and testing on the substance as it could jeopardize federal funding for research and student aid programs.
“Ohio State would place itself at risk of losing it’s substantial federal support, such as National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation grants to scientists such as myself,” Ohio State Psychology professor and member of the Ohio medical marijuana advisory committee, Gary Wenk, said.
If a university were to work with marijuana, it would need a specific clearance from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
This could create a logjam for Ohio, which is still trying to get its medical marijuana program up and running. With Ohio State — by far the largest research institution in the state — opting to stay out of the mix, it leaves the remaining schools to fill the void.
Wenk added that this was a wise decision by Ohio State, and said as the academic researcher for the advisory committee, he did not expect Ohio State to take up the testing obligations. He said the same reasons apply to other state schools, as well.
Thus far, no public state university has made any indication that it will test medical marijuana, though they are given the opportunity to.
Some schools might be wary of being one of the state’s first testing facility, and a $20,000 price tag attached creates yet another obstacle. There is a non-refundable $2,000 application fee and an $18,000 operational fee if selected, renewable each year for $20,000.
There are no limits on the amount of testing sites, but so far no schools have come forward publicly stating that they are applying. For Ohio State, it appears they are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“As the state of Ohio implements the program to allow for the cultivation, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana, Ohio State looks to engage as an appropriate partner while at the same time complying with federal, state and local laws,” Johnson said.
Ohio law states that the medical marijuana program must be fully operational by Sept. 8, 2018, which means patients with select medical conditions will be able to receive products by that date.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill in June 2016 to legalize medicinal marijuana in the state.