In 2016, the state of Ohio passed House Bill 523 which legalized cannabis use for medicinal reasons. This was hailed as a much-needed upgrade for those seeking treatment and relief not found in traditional pharmaceutical-based solutions.
Those hoping for recreational cannabis to be similarly legalized in Ohio, however, will have to wait a little longer. In a compromise between state legislators and the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the matter will be officially presented to Ohio lawmakers in January of 2023. This follows several months of political and legal maneuvering by supporters of legislation permitting recreational cannabis use.
Ohio Recreational Cannabis Push
At the beginning of 2022, a petition was submitted to the state to back a proposal legalizing recreational cannabis use. But the verification process found that fewer than 120,000 of the signatures were registered voters, which would invalidate the petition.
Undeterred, the Coalition continued their work and collected 30,000 additional viable signatures. This pushed the petition over the top in terms of the necessary public support. Lawmakers, however, challenged the new batch of signatures on the basis of when they were submitted. Legal wrangling continued until a settlement was finally reached that tabled the matter until the 2023 legislative session.
In return, all verified and viable signatures would remain intact. This arrangement would allow Ohio lawmakers ample time to further study the issue of recreational marijuana without requiring the Coalition to restart the signature-gathering process.
Ohio Recreational Cannabis Proposals
Under the proposed initiative, the cultivation, processing, sale, and purchase of recreational cannabis products would be legalized for adults 21 years or older. This would include purchase and possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of concentrates. Adults would be permitted to grow up to six marijuana plants at home, with a maximum total of 12 plants per household.
Additionally, a 10% tax would be levied on sales of recreational cannabis. The tax revenue would fund a social equity program providing financial and administrative support to individuals who have been adversely impacted by cannabis laws. This program would go towards several cannabis-related funds, including a fund for substance abuse and another for the to-be-created Division of Cannabis Control (which would provide industry oversight in Ohio).
Proponents hope that legalizing recreational cannabis will speed along necessary enhancements to the overall Ohio cannabis industry. Current areas of frustration among medical marijuana users are pricing, availability, and accessibility. With fewer than 100 dispensaries to serve the more than 138,000 registered patients, supply & demand has been out-of-balance for quite some time. Relief may come soon as 70 new dispensaries are slated to open around the state within the next year.
The legalization of recreational marijuana sales could be a catalyst for the further expansion of the industry, benefitting both recreational users and medicinal patients. Cannabis advocates are also hoping for the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to negotiate reciprocity agreements with other states, as required by Ohio law. This would allow Ohio cardholders legal access to medical marijuana while traveling in other states.
Medical Marijuana Legalization in Ohio
The current process for obtaining a medical marijuana card in Ohio requires individuals to receive a recommendation from an approved physician for using cannabis products to treat one or more specified medical conditions. This is followed by an online application from the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. Upon approval of the application, a card is issued and the patient can legally purchase marijuana in Ohio.
Cards are issued to approved patients with one or more of the following medical conditions:*
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy or other seizure disorder
- Hepatitis C
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Pain that is either severe and chronic or intractable
- Parkinson’s disease
- Positive HIV status
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Sickle Cell Anemia
- Spinal cord injury or disease
- Terminal illness
- Tourette syndrome
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Ulcerative colitis
Ohio Medical Marijuana Patient Requirements
In order to become an approved doctor for medical marijuana, physicians must meet two criteria:
1) The doctor must be Licensed to practice medicine by the Ohio Board of Medicine.
2) The doctor must be Certified-to-Recommend (CTR) medical marijuana by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.
Medical marijuana cardholders must be at least 18 years old. Minors may obtain a card provided a parent or legal guardian registers to be a designated caregiver. Only the caregiver is allowed to purchase cannabis products for the patient. Cardholders must be Ohio residents with verified documentation such as a valid Ohio driver’s license, an official Ohio state ID card, or a valid U.S. passport.
Although medical cannabis may be purchased in the form of whole plant flowers, they must be vaporized, not smoked. As an alternative, patients can purchase marijuana extracts, drops, edibles, and beverages. All products must be purchased from a licensed dispensary. Patients may only purchase or possess a 90-day supply of medical marijuana at any one time.
Medical marijuana is taxed in Ohio at the prevailing state tax rate, which is at 5.75%. It is also subject to local taxes of no more than 8%.
Medical & Recreational Cannabis Difficulties in Ohio
For some patients, the barrier to accessing medical marijuana is access to a licensed, CTR physician. Some individuals may live too far from a qualifying doctor. For others, the expense of travel is cost-prohibitive. There may even be transportation challenges/limitations that prevent someone from getting to a doctor’s office. For any of these reasons (or because patients may be reluctant to discuss medical marijuana with their primary care physician), Ohio allows patients to obtain a physician recommendations via a telehealth appointment. Patients can be quickly connected with CTR doctors by going to MMJcardforless.com.
A previous push to legalize recreational cannabis was defeated as a constitutional amendment by Ohio voters in 2015, with nearly 64% of voters opposing the amendment. Advocates of the current initiative are hopeful the updated plan for recreational use will face less headwind, as the state has had several years to see the impact of marijuana legalization. Supporters point to the potential for increases in state revenue as well as the job creation that comes with cannabis legalization.
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