Medical Marijuana in Ohio
About The Ohio Medical Marijuana Program
Medical marijuana has been a long time coming to Ohio. Although the medicinal use of marijuana was legalized in June 2016, it wasn’t until recently that the drug actually became available to residents of Ohio with the first medical dispensaries opening in January 2019. So, what took so long?
Medical Marijuana Laws In Ohio
Advocates’ efforts to bring some sense to marijuana laws in Ohio actually began many years before it’s medical marijuana program began ramping up. Way back in August of 1975, then governor James Rhodes signed legislation which decriminalized the possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana (just under a quarter pound, which is quite a lot actually), eliminating jail time and reducing fines to a mere $150.
Even though Ohio was a highly conservative state at the time, it became only the sixth state take this leap. (Even with decriminalization in effect, approximately 14,000 residents were arrested on marijuana possession charges in 2012.)
It would be another 40 years before anyone would try to completely end marijuana prohibition in Ohio.
In 2015, a year before Ohio’s medical program was signed into law, advocates were able to place a voter initiative on the statewide ballot. At the time, polling showed that a whopping 90 percent of Ohioans supported the idea of legalizing medicinal use of marijuana.
Known as Issue 3, the ill-fated initiative attempted to legalize both recreational and medicinal marijuana simultaneously. The campaign was bankrolled by a group of investors that included boy band singer Nick Lachey, NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, NFL defensive end Frostee Rucker, and fashion designer Nanette Lepore.
The language of the proposal did not sit well with more than two-thirds of voters. For one thing the proposal allowed the home cultivation and recreational use of “pot.” Moreover, it would have set up a marijuana monopoly in the state for a few folks, which angered just about everyone else. Legislators even put a measure on the ballot which would prohibit monopolies in the event the measure passed.
Even some medical marijuana advocates pushed for a “no” vote Issue 3. In fact, neither the Drug Policy Alliance nor the Marijuana Policy Project nor Legalize Ohio endorsed the measure. The proposition was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin. Legalize Ohio released a statement saying, “This year’s initiative failed because a greed-driven monopoly plan is wrong for the state of Ohio. Some activists were let down tonight because they put their faith in a bad plan, but their efforts have brought us a step closer to legalizing marijuana in 2016.”
Although Issue 3 was soundly defeated, the popularity of the issue took state lawmakers by surprise. A handful of them decided that it would be better to legislate a strict medical marijuana program than to risk the passage of another liberal ballot initiative. HB 523 was signed in June of 1016, officially legalizing medical marijuana for a list of 21 qualifying conditions.
The bill paved the way for the development of a state-run system of licensed growing facilities, testing labs, processors, and retail dispensaries. Under the bill, lawmakers had until September 2018 to have the program up and running. However, the Ohio Department of Commerce was tasked with drafting rules for cultivators before May 6, 2017, with the remainder of rules to be in place by October 2017. Then sales were scheduled to begin in September of 2018. However, that deadline was missed and sales did not begin until 2019.
While the program was being developed, approved patients were allowed to purchase medical marijuana products from neighboring Michigan or other states with legalized medical cannabis. However, none of these states allows the legal transport of medical marijuana across state lines meaning that Ohioans would still have to break some laws to get their medicine. Moreover, the law prohibited the possession and use of smokable forms of the drug as well as home cultivation.
The 21 Qualifying Conditions
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Chronic Pain
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Spinal Cord Disease or Injury
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Sickle Cell Anemia
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Crohn’s Disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Hepatitis C
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Additional conditions may be added by the the Ohio state medical board. In fact, Ohio doctors may soon be able to recommend medical marijuana as a treatment option for anxiety disorders. Members of the state’s Medical Board recently recommended that anxiety be added to the list of qualifying conditions. However, those suffering from anxiety may be limited to using non-psychoactive CBD oil.
Board members also recommended that autism, opioid use disorder, depression, and insomnia. However, the board recommended against adding these conditions to the list.
These recommendations are the result of the Medical Board asking the public for online petitions to request additional qualifying conditions.
The Ohio Medical Board is scheduled to decide if marijuana can be used to treat anxiety, autism, and these other conditions on June 12.
How To Get A Medical Marijuana Card In Ohio
The gatekeepers of medical marijuana cards in Ohio is the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. According to OMMCP, there are three steps to obtaining medical marijuana in Ohio.
- Step 1 is to visit a certified physician who will examine you and your medical history and confirm that you have one of the qualifying medical conditions. The physician must testify that:
- there exists patient and physician are in a bonafide relationship
- the patient has a qualifying condition
- the physician has examined the prescription history of the patient from the past year
- the physician has discussed the benefits and potential risks with the patient
- the physician agrees that the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks
- Step 2, assuming you are approved by a doctor, is to complete your registration through the OMMCP Patient & Caregiver Registry.
- Once you have received your medical marijuana card you are permitted to purchase medical marijuana from an approved dispensary in Ohio or another state with a medical marijuana program.
In order to recommend medical marijuana to a patient, a physician must be licensed by the State Pharmacy Board.
There is a $50 registration fee when you sign up for the patient registry.
Once you are issued a medical marijuana card, you’ll be permitted to purchase specific marijuana products at 60 dispensaries located throughout the state.
Patients who cannot obtain or administer their own medicine may designate a caregiver.
Furthermore, if a patient is under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must apply on their behalf and act as the designated caregiver.
Ohio maintains a confidential list of persons who have been issued ID cards and is required to verify the identity of patients to local and state law enforcement upon request. The law prohibits both dispensaries and the Board of Pharmacy from making personal information public.
Medical marijuana patients are protected from being evicted on the grounds of using medical marijuana, however, employers are permitted to fire any employee who they feel cannot do their job as a result of being a medical marijuana patient.
Health insurance companies are not required to cover the cost of medical marijuana in Ohio.
What Medical Marijuana Products Are Allowed In Ohio?
Qualified patients with a medical card are allowed to purchase up to a 90-day supply of medicine, however only certain forms of cannabis are allowed under the rules.
Permitted forms of medical marijuana in Ohio include:
- Inhalation of marijuana through a vaporizer (not direct smoking)
- Plant material
The State Board of Pharmacy has the authority to approve other methods should it so choose in the future.
There are no social consumption venues in Ohio, and the consumption of these products in public places is illegal. This pretty much restricts use to private residences.
Smoking and smokable forms of marijuana such as dried flower (buds) are also forbidden under the rules.
You will be able to buy products such as tinctures, oils, creams, dry flower and plant material for vaporizers, and edibles.
Is CBD Legal In Ohio?
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy has ruled that CBD products, even those made from hemp which contains no THC, are covered by the state’s medical marijuana laws, and can only be sold in state-licensed dispensaries.
However, even though CBD falls under the state’s medical marijuana program, many shops in Ohio continue to stock CBD oil and other products made from hemp CBD. However, if law enforcement officials were to seize these products from unlicensed shops they would be required to have them tested in order to prove their case. And, assuming the products are made from hemp the tests will show that the products are effectively THC-free and should be treated like any other hemp product, leaving the state with a feeble case.
In 2017, police actually did raid a number of businesses and confiscated hemp CBD products. However, police ended up returning the products to the shops after they realized that a Union County prosecutor had declined to press charges in another, unrelated case from two years earlier.
So, regardless of the board’s decree that hemp CBD oil is illegal outside of the state’s medical marijuana system, sellers of CBD products now appear to be immune from prosecution. But that doesn’t mean you are.
If you want to completely avoid the chance of being pulled over by police on the way home, it’s recommended that you purchased your CBD online and have it delivered.
For a list of websites that sell CBD oil and CBD-infused edibles, topicals, vape oils, etc., visit CBDbay.app
Regardless, as we mentioned earlier, there are numerous shops in the state selling imported CBD products, especially in larger cities such as Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, and Toledo.
Do You Really Need A Medical Marijuana Card In Ohio?
Some of you may be thinking, “Do I really need a medical marijuana card? Why jump through the hoops pay the costs when I can simply purchase marijuana from my local dealer and use it any way I like including smoking it?”
Although the maximum fine for possessing marijuana for personal use in Ohio is only $150, there are other consequences if you’re caught with marijuana outside of the state’s medical program.
For instance, your driver’s license could be suspended for a period of six months to five years. And a DUI involving marijuana all but guarantees you’ll lose your license and have to pay substantial court costs. Furthermore, if you use marijuana on the same premises a minor the penalties are even more severe.
What About Recreational Marijuana In Ohio?
There is a possibility that recreational marijuana could be legalized in Ohio in 2019. If this happens, then smokable forms of the drug will almost certainly be permitted.
A voter initiative known as the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative may appear on the statewide ballot in Ohio on November 5. Proponents of the measure filed the initiative as the “Marijuana Rights and Regulations Amendment” because the proposal calls for what known as an initiated constitutional amendment. If passed the measure would legalize the use, possession, and sale of marijuana for all persons age 21 or older in Ohio, and would authorize the Ohio General Assembly to enact a tax on retail sales of marijuana.
Getting Help With Medical Marijuana In Ohio
For the latest information, including access to forms and timelines, check out Ohio’s medical marijuana program website.
The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program operates a Toll-Free Helpline for patients, caregivers, and health professionals. It provides information regarding adverse reactions to medical marijuana, as well as information about available services and additional assistance as needed. Call 1-833-4OH-MMCP (1-833-464-6627).