ALLIANCE — Gamblers use playing cards. Children play with Pokemon cards. Marijuana users, occasionally, are trying to pass off to police a sort of “get-out-jail-free” card.
The Affirmative Defense cards, provided by Cleveland- and Toledo-area doctors before medical marijuana dispensaries opened nearly a year ago, aren’t valid and they cannot be used legally to possess marijuana.
Still, Alliance police say they occasionally find people caught with marijuana who try to use the old cards to claim they use marijuana under a doctor’s orders.
Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and evening newsletters
When a 23-year-old Alliance man was pulled over on a recent traffic stop in the city, he told Alliance Police he had an Ohio medical marijuana card but he didn’t have it with him at that time.
He did, however, have several bags and jars of marijuana.
“He had it in bags and not in the container in which it was prescribed,” Detective Bob Rajcan said.
Ohio law requires the medicinal marijuana only be transported in its original containers. To possess it otherwise is illegal.
Rajcan said the suspect did have a legal medical marijuana recommendation. But he is also required to provide immediate proof, which consists of an email that can be downloaded and printed or screenshot on a cellphone.
Patients legally prescribed medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries in the Buckeye state are identified by a patient ID number on an email that also can be showed to inquiring police on a cellphone, according to Rajcan.
Still, Alliance detectives have a notebook containing copies of nearly a dozen of those “cards” or paperwork confiscated in the last three years.
Before the system was legally in place, however, some doctors advocating medical marijuana as a treatment, issued “affirmative defense” cards to patients. The cards contain the patient’s name, the doctor’s name, address and phone number and words saying the doctor has certified the patient as having a “qualifying condition for medical marijuana possession and use” under a house bill that had not yet been made into a law.
Out of state
Rajcan explained marijuana is legal in Michigan, yet not in Ohio so patients would go to a doctor in the Toledo or Cleveland area, pay about $250 to $300 and obtain a card. The cardholder would then travel to Michigan where recreational marijuana is legal, make their purchases and then return to Ohio.
Some of those cards are still floating around.
Doctors whose names are on a few of the cards — one at an office in Willoughby Hills and another at the Alternative Medicine Centers in the Sandusky area — could not be reached for comment.
A woman who answered the phone at in the Willoughby Hills office said the cards were old and prescribed to patients prior to the passage of the law.
“Those aren’t any good. Affirmative defense ended over a year ago,” she said, saying the doctor was busy seeing patients.
Arthur Hall, chief executive officer of Rising Biosciences, which is the parent company for Alternative Medicine Centers, said the cards or paperwork the doctors issued were merely doctors’ recommendations the patients who carry them are medically qualified to use marijuana for medical purposes.
“They did nothing but show a police officer they could have a recommendation to be treated with marijuana,” Hall said.
Legally prescribed marijuana cannot be smoked, Rajcan pointed out. Administering the drug involves edibles, a state-approved vaporizer or tinctures, such as a vial with a dropper.
Rajcan said the rules include a requirement that the prescribed marijuana remain in specially marked prescription bottles that list the condition for which the marijuana was prescribed, the name of the prescribing doctor and other related information – just as in any other medical prescription.
“You can’t just transport it in a baggie,” he said.
Other police departments say their officers haven’t arrested people trying to use the affirmative defense cards to evade criminal charges.