Cannabis Legalization in Ohio

Bottom Line:

Medical cannabis is legal in the state of Ohio, though recreational cannabis use remains prohibited. However, the state has taken a relatively generous approach to decriminalization, eliminating heavy penalties for possession and consumption of small quantities of cannabis.

Ohio has a relatively relaxed approach to cannabis policy in general, though continues to prohibit the possession and consumption of recreational cannabis.  Decriminalization transformed the state’s approach to the punishment of cannabis-related crimes, though the most recent initiative to formally legalize recreational cannabis failed. Commercial cannabis sales for medical marijuana cardholders began as recently as January 2019.

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When Was Cannabis Decriminalized in Ohio?

Republican governor James Rhodes enacted new legislation in August 1975, which made Ohio the sixth North American State to decriminalize cannabis. The difference being that Ohio’s take on decriminalization was and remains somewhat more generous than the U.S. norm. Under state law, possession of up to 100g of cannabis at any one time is punishable by a maximum fine of $150. Carrying less than 200g but more than 100g is punishable by a $250 fine and a maximum 30-day prison sentence. However, imprisonment for recreational cannabis possession in these kinds of quantities is extremely rare.

Despite the relaxation of cannabis possession and consumption laws, official records show that around 17,000 people were arrested for cannabis possession offenses in 2013. The damning report also indicated that African Americans were more than four times more likely to be arrested for possession of cannabis than whites in Ohio.

When Was Medical Cannabis Legalized in Ohio?

Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 523 in June 2016, which formally introduced medical cannabis legalization for the state of Ohio. A clause in the legislation required that the new medical cannabis infrastructure be introduced and operational by no later than September 2018. Ultimately, the first commercial sales of medical cannabis in Ohio took place in mid-January 2019.  In the meantime, the state’s health department published a list of qualifying conditions for access to medical cannabis, along with formal rules and regulations for its cultivation, distribution, possession and consumption.

Interestingly, Ohio is one of several states to have prohibited smoking as a medical cannabis ingestion method. Medical cannabis in Ohio can only be used in edible, oil, vapor, patch, tincture, or plant matter form.

Has Ohio Ever Voted on Recreational Cannabis Legalization?

Residents of Ohio were given the opportunity to vote on recreational cannabis legalization in 2015. The proposed measure would have essentially seen recreational cannabis fall under similar controls to those of alcohol and tobacco, though would provide residents with the opportunity to cultivate cannabis only after applying for a $50.00 licence. Despite substantial support from some of the state’s wealthiest and most prominent figures, the proposed ballot measure was defeated at the polls. Since then, polls carried out across the state have presented a mixed picture of support and opposition for potential future recreational cannabis legislation.

When Can I Buy Medical Marijuana in Ohio?

As the first official medical cannabis sales took place in Ohio as recently as January 2019, the state’s network of operational dispensaries remains relatively compact. However, these are currently the only places authorized by the state to sell medical cannabis. You’ll find your nearest dispensary online, or your recommending physician can point you in the right direction.

How Much Does Medical Cannabis Cost in Ohio?

There’s a certain amount of free market flexibility to the medical cannabis industry, but prices tend to be similar from one dispensary to the next. As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t have to pay more than $20 for a gram of cannabis flowers, though you’re unlikely to find the same quantity for less than 5g. Or to put it another way, you’ll typically be looking at around $200 to $400 per ounce.  Cannabis concentrates vary significantly in quality and purity, so you could pay anything from $15 to $60 per gram. The same also applying to tinctures and edibles, which vary enormously in potency and quality. Shopping around for a good deal is always advisable.

Can I Pay for Medical Cannabis on My Insurance?

So far, the overwhelming majority of medical insurance providers have refused to pay for any cannabis related products on behalf of their patients. This is because medical cannabis is still technically illegal at a Federal level, leaving medical insurance companies reluctant to pay for it. There are some smaller private insurers that have begun funding medical cannabis for qualifying patients, but the same cannot be said for Medicaid, Medicare and general public health plans for the elderly and the poor. Chances are, you’ll be required to pay for your medical cannabis out of your own pocket.

How Many Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Are Scheduled to Open?

Despite promises to have the medical cannabis system up and running by September 2018, things are still at a relatively embryonic stage a year later.  However, the state is known to be currently reviewing more than 370 applications from perspective dispensary business owners across the state. No more than 60 of these applicants are to be granted licenses for the time being, but this should create a decent network of dispensaries statewide.

All dispensaries operating in Ohio will be prohibited from doing business within 500 feet of any school, church, public library, public playground, public park or community addiction services. Nonrefundable application fees are payable at the time of submission, along with additional (higher) fees upon being granted a dispensary license.

Why Has Ohio Prohibited Medical Cannabis Consumption by Smoking?

The decision to prohibit smoking was based on public health groups’ concerns with the potential side effects and implications of smoke inhalation. Even those who advocate cannabis consumption in general agree that consumption by way of edibles, tinctures, concentrates, vapes and so on carries fewer potential health implications. However, it has also been acknowledged that it is largely impossible for state officials to police the consumption of cannabis in the private residences of those using it.

What Are the Medical Cannabis Possession Restrictions in Ohio?

Interestingly, Ohio has introduced several tiers of cannabis possession restrictions, in accordance with the potency of the product. Rather than simply allowing patients to buy a certain quantity of cannabis flowers (or related products) per month, Ohio has instead outlined the following allowances per 90-day period:

  • Up to 8 ounces of tier I medical cannabis. (Tier 1 cannabis must test at or below 23 percent THC)
  • Up to 5.3 ounces of tier II medical cannabis. (Tier 2 cannabis must test above 23 percent THC but not more than 35 percent THC
  • Medical cannabis products including topicals, creams, patches and lotions with a combined THC quantity of no more than 26.55g
  • Cannabis oil for vaporization with a maximum THC content of 53.1g

Authorized caregivers may also purchase the above quantities of cannabis and related products on behalf of their patients.

Is Recreational Cannabis Use Permitted in Ohio?

The decriminalization of recreational cannabis in Ohio has led many to (wrongly) assume that recreational consumption is now legal. While punishments for low-level possession and consumption have been relaxed significantly over the years, all forms of recreational cannabis are still technically illegal. There’s also no indication that recreational cannabis legalization will happen in Ohio anytime soon.

Can I Grow My Own Medical Cannabis at Home?

For the time being at least, the state of Ohio prohibits the cultivation of all forms of cannabis at home. There is therefore no legal way of accessing medical cannabis, without paying a visit to an authorized dispensary. This can be particularly difficult for patients who live long distances from the nearest dispensaries – businesses also currently being prohibited from making cannabis deliveries.

What Are Ohio State’s Current Qualifying Conditions for Medical Cannabis?

The list of qualifying medical conditions in the state of Ohio has been revisited and revised on several occasions. Today, patients may be granted access to medical cannabis upon being diagnosed with AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis.

What If My Condition Doesn’t Appear on the List?

Your registered physician can file an appeal on your behalf, which could result in the provision of a medical cannabis card. Ultimately, it will be up to your doctor to decide whether or not to recommend you for the state’s medical cannabis program, which in almost all instances is dependent on diagnosis of one or more of the above conditions.

Will Ohio Legalize Recreational Cannabis?

With a recent initiative to legalize recreational cannabis having been defeated, Ohio is unlikely to see a dramatic turnaround anytime soon. Particularly given how the state’s medical cannabis system has only commenced operations in January 2019, it is likely to be sometime before the subject of recreational marijuana is revisited. At which time, it’s impossible to predict which way the public in general will vote.