Ohio legalized the medical use of marijuana in 2016, but it’s failed in its attempts to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. However, it has decriminalized the possession of recreational cannabis up to 100 grams. Let’s take a look at the Ohio marijuana laws in detail.
Timeline of Ohio marijuana laws
In Ohio, the possession of any amount of marijuana was a criminal offense until 1975. The state decriminalized recreational cannabis on August 22, 1975. James Rhodes, the governor of Ohio at that time, signed the proposal. Ohio was the sixth state to decriminalize cannabis possession. A ballot to legalize recreational cannabis was presented in 2015. The initiative, known as Issue 3, would have legalized the possession, use, and sale of recreational cannabis to adults aged 21 or more. However, the measure didn’t receive the required support and eventually failed.
The state of Ohio legalized the medical use of cannabis in 2016. Governor John Kasich approved the bill in June 2016 for 21 qualifying conditions. On July 30, 2019, Governor Mike DeWine approved a new law to legalize hemp-derived cannabis products. To qualify as hemp, a product’s concentration of THC should not be more than 0.3% on a dry-weight basis.
Due to cannabis’s decriminalization in 1975, the possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis is now just a minor misdemeanor. It can draw up to a $150 fine. However, possessing more than this limit might result in jail time. Possession of up to 200 grams of cannabis is punishable with a maximum of 30 days of jail time and a fine of $250.
Many major cities in Ohio have relaxed their rules. Toledo increased the cannabis possession limit to 200 grams with no penalties. Following this, Dayton and Cincinnati eliminated all penalties on cannabis possession up to 100 grams. Columbus reduced the fine amount from the state’s penalty of $150 to $10 for up to 100 grams. In addition, cities such as Logan, Bellaire, Newark, Athens, Roseville, Fremont, Norwood, and Oregon also relaxed the decriminalization laws and penalties. Even with decriminalization laws in Ohio, arrest counts are pretty high. The state recorded around 17,000 arrests for possessing marijuana and more than 1,000 arrests for illegally selling marijuana in 2016.
Ohio medical marijuana laws
The medical use of cannabis has been legal in Ohio since Governor John Kasich approved the bill in June 2016. Representative Stephen Huffman was the sponsor for this House Bill 523. The bill was passed with almost 55% support in the state senate, and it got almost 70% support in the state house. The state expected to set up the whole system, including setting up the required facilities and labs, registering patients, certifying physicians, and setting up retail dispensaries, by September 2018. During the interim period, patients were advised to get their medical cannabis products from other states that had legalized medical marijuana.
Ohio’s marijuana laws allow cannabis products only in the forms of edibles, vapor, tinctures, patches, oils, and concentrate or plant forms. The state prohibits the growing of cannabis plants or the use of the plant in the form of smoking. The state missed its deadline to set up the system by September 2018. It started licensed sales only on January 16, 2019.
As per Ohio marijuana laws, patients and their caregivers must be registered to buy, possess, and use cannabis for medical purposes. The state’s registration board keeps patients’ information confidential as per the state law. Online registration was launched only in December 2018. Once the registration is complete, patients and caregivers receive photo identity documents and registry cards with one-year validity.
The State Board of Ohio approves physicians to prescribe medical cannabis products. Before prescribing medical cannabis, physicians should have a proper relationship with their patients. The physician must check the patient’s prescriptions for at least the last month. He or she should also discuss the benefits and risks associated with medical marijuana with the patient before prescribing it.
Ohio approved almost 450 physicians in the first three months. At any given time, registered patients are allowed to possess medical cannabis for only 90 days of usage. The state prohibits the growing or cultivation of cannabis plants at home—even for medical use.
Major state dispensaries include Strawberry Fields, Verdant Creations, Pure Ohio Wellness, Bloom Medicinals, Zenleaf, Buckeye Botanicals, Verilife, Soothe, Debbie’s Dispensary, gLeaf Medical Cannabis, Rise, Terrasana, and The Botanist.
21 qualifying conditions
The 21 qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Ohio are as follows: AIDS/HIV, cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, spinal cord injury or disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, hepatitis C, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, glaucoma, chronic or intractable pain, sickle cell anemia, Tourette’s syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.
Ohio medical marijuana control program until now
Ohio launched medical marijuana sales in January 2019. In the first year, the state increased its dispensary and patient counts. It also saw price cuts. It had only four dispensaries at this time. The number of operational dispensaries has grown to 46 at present. The state has also distributed certificates for the opening of 12 more dispensaries.
Ohio has 74,768 registered medical marijuana patients as of November 30. The state’s most common medical conditions to use cannabis medicines are cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia. The state has sold around 6,000 pounds of cannabis plant materials this year. Further, the state has also sold 236,008 units of finished cannabis products such as edibles, oils, and patches and received $49.4 million in revenue from medical cannabis sales.
Currently, Ohio has 590 registered physicians who can prescribe medical marijuana. Prices of these cannabis medicines have also significantly reduced. As more producers use online channels, prices have reduced to almost 75% of the initial price.
Failed proposal to legalize recreational cannabis
A group of investors sponsored an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio in 2015. The investors included NBA player Oscar Robertson, singer Nick Lachey, fashion designer Nanette Lepore, and NFL player Frostee Rucker. This Issue 3 initiative didn’t receive the required support at the polls.
Even though Ohio’s citizens showed considerable support for general cannabis legalization, their support was weaker for this particular proposal, mainly because of the plan to form a monopoly of producers. The measure also failed to get support from big agencies such as the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance. Issue 3 received only 35% support on election day.
Contents of the bill
- The proposal would have legalized the possession, use, and sale of cannabis for adults aged 21 or older.
- This measure would have allowed the cultivation of cannabis on a commercial scale. However, it would have been cultivated only at the ten sites already chosen by the sponsors.
- It allowed for the possession up to one ounce of commercially purchased cannabis or eight ounces or cannabis cultivated at home.
- It allowed for cultivation at home. However, Ohioans would have had to acquire a license that cost $50 to do so. With this license, Ohioans could cultivate up to four plants per house.
Will Ohio legalize recreational marijuana?
Even though voters rejected a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana four years ago, the pushback was mostly the result of the proposal’s contents. Even longtime supporters of legalization opposed that particular bill. It aimed to create a regulatory structure that empowered wealthy sponsors of cannabis cultivation. Rather than making cannabis a state affair, it seemed like the measure would have granted sponsors control over the whole cannabis market in Ohio.
We can infer Ohioans’ support for legalizing marijuana from its continued decriminalization in the state’s major cities. There may even be enough support from the public for legalizing cannabis. In recent news, Ohioans are buying recreational marijuana products from Michigan retail stores. As the Ohio border is just a quarter of a mile away from Michigan’s marijuana shops, many Ohioans cross the border to make purchases. The state police are keeping an eye on those who travel back to Ohio from Michigan. As cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, transporting marijuana between states is a serious offense.
2020 could be a big year for cannabis, as initiatives to legalize marijuana in many US states will be presented on the ballot. Even though the state of Ohio hasn’t filed any proposals for the 2020 ballot yet, it may stand a good chance.