Round circle with words Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program and a map of Ohio with lines spraying above it

Sometimes you just have to speak your mind.

Rant #1. The Cleveland Clinic and fake news. It is well known that the vaunted Cleveland Clinic derides medical marijuana. Dr. Paul Terpeluk, Medical Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Employee Health Services, recently penned a news release attesting to “better alternatives.” The release aimed to explain why the Clinic bars its physicians from recommending cannabis under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP), the regulatory body created by HB 523 to oversee medical cannabis cultivation, processing, distribution and sales in Ohio. Fair enough. Under the law, local jurisdictions, including hospitals, can establish their own policies, particularly on their premises.

That’s the real news. The fake news involved a widely circulated social media post entitled, “Cleveland Clinic MMJ Policy in a nut shell – Call the Cops!” That probably got your heart pumping! The problem? It’s fiction.

The “Medical Marijuana Policy” PDF accompanying the post indeed advised employees to contact the Cleveland Clinic Police Department if a patient was found in possession of medical marijuana. The police would verify the patient’s registry card and confirm that registration in the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS). While the Clinic’s logo and effective date of “02/06/2019” made the PDF appear official, the critical eye would notice no signatures and no “Original Date of Issue” on this “Version 1.”

At the 02/07/2019 meeting of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, Erin Reid, counsel to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, unequivocally stated that no one – repeat NO ONE – except recommending physicians has access to the registry and similarly OARRS. That includes the cops. Eileen Sheil, Executive Director of Cleveland Clinic Corporate Communications, confirmed in an email, “Our policy reflects state and federal law.”

On these bases, “Call the Cops” falls apart, as does the accompanying policy PDF. It is at best a draft, at worst – fiction. The teachable moment holds that salacious social media posts, even about those we distain, should be viewed with that critical eye. It’s fair to criticize the Cleveland Clinic for its publicly-stated bar on physician recommendations, but unfair, unwise and unprofessional to trash them with sensationalized claims that, when verified, amount to little more than fake news.                                               

Rant #2. Speaking of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, member attendance at that 02/07/2019 meeting was so poor that the group failed to achieve quorum. That’s 50% plus one, meaning that seven of its 14 members were no-shows. Granted, fog framed the city. It was Thursday. The groundhog didn’t see his shadow. But c’mon. Patient representative Bob Bridges has attended all meetings, one four days after a heart attack and release from the hospital!

This committee has stumbled from day one. Former member Ted Bibart wrote, “[it is a] forum that is ill-equipped to consider, discuss and develop substantive policy recommendations for presentation to the regulators.”

Further, it has now slipped under the control of marijuana’s fiercest opponent, Marcie Seidel. In fact, Ms. Seidel still serves as the paid Executive Director of the Prevention Action Alliance (formerly the Drug Free Action Alliance). Since her committee appointment, she has regularly panned medical marijuana in the media. “We were blackmailed into it,” she said of the OMMCP in April 2018. Medical marijuana, she once likened to an infomercial. Still, she not only attends advisory committee meetings, SHE chairs them! Is this dysfunction at the root of poor attendance?

This committee represents one small conduit between medical marijuana patients and the innerworkings of the OMMCP that they helped to create. Useful information (see above) is shared and problems aired. It puts a face to the program.

No-shows, do the right thing. Respect the courtesy of your appointment and attend committee meetings. Please.

Rant #3. Pride in the program. Despite OMMCP’s “Keystone Kops” rollout, there’s much to be proud of. The PowerPoint from that last committee meeting displayed 18 days-worth of sales from six Ohio dispensaries: $502,961 and 68.22 pounds. Mind you, these are completely legal transactions. No police. No SWAT. No trial. No sentence. No jail. By February 17th, those numbers had risen to $947,056 and 126 pounds! This. Is. Remarkable.

Not only that, Ohio legislators are finally taking a serious look industrial hemp. Within that same week, a bill to legalize hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill was introduced as Senate Bill 57.

Also that week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the opinion for a unanimous decision that eviscerated civil asset forfeiture, the most egregious modern-day abrogation of the U.S. Constitution. It was a drug case that brought forfeiture down.

For those of us who have been immersed in all things cannabis, 2019 is looking to be a very good year, one we will be able to look upon nostalgically with great pride.

Margaret Mead once wrote, “Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.” Believe and be proud.