Unless you have a medical card, it’s not currently legal to buy weed in Ohio. That said, 2021 was a year of momentum, and recreational cannabis in Ohio may soon become a reality.
Last year Democratic state representatives introduced House Bill 382 to allow for the cultivation, sale, and possession of cannabis, along with marijuana offense expungements in the summer of 2021. The bill didn’t go anywhere but was followed by the introduction of House Bill 498, this time presented by Republican state representatives in December. HB 498 sought to extend the state’s medical marijuana program to include adult-use cannabis. No hearing has been scheduled yet to assess the bill.
Additionally, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol gained thousands of signatures in a petition supporting the proposal to legalize cannabis in Ohio. The group submitted 206,943 signatures by the December 2021 deadline. On January 3rd, 2022, the state ruled that only 119,825 of the signatures were valid, compared to the required 132,887.
The group was given a January 13th, 2022 deadline to collect an additional 13,062 signatures necessary for a successful campaign. If they failed to meet the deadline, they would likely need to start over again, which would make their November ballot goal difficult to achieve. The group submitted nearly 30,000 more signatures before the January 13th deadline, but we have yet to see official updates regarding the number of signatures accepted.
Current Ohio cannabis laws
The state may be behind others when it comes to progressive adult-use cannabis laws, but that doesn’t mean it is particularly strict. Ohio was the sixth state to decriminalize cannabis back in 1975, making possession of fewer than 100 grams of cannabis a misdemeanor with a maximum $150 fine. Possession of 100 – 200 grams of cannabis is also a misdemeanor but can result in up to 30 days incarceration and a $250 fine.
Medical marijuana users in the state can possess up to a 90-day supply of cannabis, including oils, tinctures, patches, flower, and edibles. Home cultivation is not permitted, though, so patients must get their medicine from a state-licensed dispensary.
Concerns with medical cannabis access and licenses
Patient access to medical marijuana dispensaries in Ohio has not always been easy. Only 57 dispensaries have operated across the Buckeye State since the program’s launch in 2018. The small number of dispensaries and space between them has made access to products difficult for some patients in the state, but this is set to change soon.
At the end of 2021, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced it would be awarding 73 more dispensary licenses to expand the number of medical dispensaries in Ohio. The lottery for applicants is set for January 27th.
While the lottery system is intended to level the playing field and give all applicants a chance to win, there are concerns about deep pockets swaying results. After all, companies are allowed to submit multiple applications, which increases their chance of selection. Some people have submitted more than 70 applications, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for a higher chance of getting picked.
What’s next for Ohio cannabis?
We will have a better idea of what’s in store for Ohio cannabis in the near future when the state verifies additional petition signatures submitted by The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
If the petition succeeds, state lawmakers will have four months to decide if they want to tackle the issue. If they decide not to, the coalition can bring it to a statewide ballot in November 2022, assuming they can gather another 133,000 valid signatures.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the state’s next steps.