Courts Politics

New appointments to Ohio medical marijuana committee spark concerns

Photo courtesy of Brett Levin via Flickr
Written by Ryan Severance

Two recent appointments to the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee have raised concerns with pro-marijuana advocates regarding the board’s fairness.

The appointments of Tony Coder and Marcie Seidel, both of the Drug Free Action Alliance, follow Ohio’s recent legalization of medical marijuana in September.

As the Drug Free Action Alliance has fought legalization efforts in the past, the move to appoint Seidel as executive director and Coder as assistant director raises questions over the committee’s interest.

The Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee was created to advise the three state agencies in charge of medicinal cannabis in Ohio, though its formal recommendations are not binding. The 14-member committee is composed of individuals representing the various interests of medicinal cannabis groups, including law enforcement, caregivers and patients.

Aaron Marshall of the Ohioans for Medical Marijuana Group (OMMG) believes the appointments show a serious breach in trust.

“We were hoping that these appointments would be made in good faith, and that we’d have a well-educated, balanced medical marijuana committee here,” Marshall said. “With two of the fiercest critics of marijuana on the board in all of Ohio, it’s troubling and makes us wonder whether this committee will be functional.”

The three state agencies who will hear recommendations from the advisory committee — the Medical, Pharmacy, and Commerce Boards of Ohio — are in charge of establishing regulations like retail dispensaries, physician requirements and the number of grower permits distributed.

Seidel will represent people involved in mental health treatment on the committee, while Coder will represent people involved in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Ohio House Speaker Rosenberger spoke highly of Seidel in her appointment, but the OMMG retains its doubts.

“Marcie Seidel is supposed to represent mental health professions, and Tony addiction services — well, they’re not psychologists, psychiatrists or addiction specialists,” Marshall said. “They have no qualifications whatsoever. The only qualifications these two have is that they really don’t like medicinal marijuana.”

While the appointments may have caused a stir, the remaining 12 members of the advisory committee have largely flown under the radar.

“If you take a look at who Gov. Kasich appointed, there are people who are very well educated on medical marijuana, and we have no quarrel with these appointments,” Marshall said.

But despite Marshall’s concerns over the latest additions to the advisory committee, he remains confident of marijuana’s future in Ohio.

“Frankly, the real work that’s going to be done on medicinal marijuana is going to be done by these state agencies,” Marshall said. “How much real power this committee really has remains to be seen. Are these appointments disappointing? Yes. Does it mean that this industry will never come to fruition in Ohio? No.”

As the state agencies in charge of medicinal cannabis continue to execute their timeline for establishing an operational program, OMMG urged supporters to look to the future.

“I encourage people to stay tuned, because it’s going to be a long process here,” Marshall said. “We’re hopeful we’ll still get a medical marijuana program that serves thousands of patients and gets them the medicine we need, and that people will hold their elected officials accountable for their part in the process.”

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Ryan Severance

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