Ohio Weed Laws: Was Marijuana Legalized Unintentionally?

Hemp, not marijuana, is legal - but Ohio police have no way to test for differences in THC levels.

A judges gable with a marijuana leaf. Source: Wikileaf

The future of cannabis is bright in the Buckeye state: industrial hemp and CBD are legal and eligible patients can participate in the state’s medical-marijuana program. Although recreational cannabis remains prohibited, Ohio’s cannabis industry is likely to continue growing.

Hemp—Not Weed—is Fully Legal in Ohio

It’s okay if you’re confused. Hemp, weed, pot, and marijuana all refer to the same plant: Cannabis sativa. Legally speaking, hemp is a variety of C. sativa that contains .3 percent THC or less and can be used for industrial purposes. It’s an extremely versatile crop containing elevated levels of CBD, but it will not get anyone high.

As in Texas, Ohio legalized hemp farming this summer. It is totally legal to farm hemp, and law enforcement can distinguish hemp from high THC cannabis by testing the THC content of the different plant varieties.

The problem is that law enforcement’s current technology can only test for the presence of THC, not its levels. That means that there is no uniform way for law enforcement to distinguish legal hemp from illegal cannabis. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s solution is to send cannabis to third party laboratories to obtain THC content levels with the plan of developing an in-house THC-testing protocol in the near future.

Although recreational cannabis remains illegal in Ohio for the time being, qualifying patients may be eligible to participate in the state’s medical-marijuana program.

Qualifying Debilitating Medical Conditions

Patients with one or more of the following diagnoses may be eligible to participate in Ohio’s medical marijuana program:

  • 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 or severe and 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
  • Ulcerative colitis

New qualifying conditions can be added to this list. Petitions must be submitted online during the petition window. Ohio’s first petition window will be from November 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019. The petition must include the following to be considered by the State Medical Board of Ohio:

  • The name and contact information
  • The name of the specific disease or condition requested to be added
  • Information from experts who specialize in the disease or condition
  • Relevant medical or scientific evidence
  • Information about the efficacy of conventional therapies on the requested disease or condition
  • Evidence justifying the use of medical marijuana to treat the disease or condition
  • Letters of support provided by physicians

Applying for A Medical Marijuana Card in Ohio

To obtain a Patient & Caregiver Registry card and participate in Ohio’s medical marijuana program, patients must complete the following steps:

  • See a certified physician. Patients can find physicians certified to recommend medical marijuana here. Certified patients can recommend up to 90 days-worth of medical marijuana with up to three refills.
  • Register online. Once a certified physician has entered the patient and their caregiver into the Patient and Caregiver Registry, the patient will receive login credentials via email to the Patient Registry. The annual registration fee is $50 for patients and $25 for caregivers.

Possession and Purchasing Limits

The only legal place to purchase cannabis is at a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary. Patients can find a list of these facilities here.

Patients can only purchase medical marijuana if they show their active registry cards and associated government-issued ID. They must also have an active recommendation from their certified physician.

Patients cannot purchase more than a 90-day supply of cannabis within a 90-day period. A 90-day supply refers to the following:

  • No more than 8 ounces of tier 1 medical marijuana (marijuana containing 23 percent or less THC) plant material
  • No more than 5.3 ounces of tier 2 medical marijuana (marijuana containing over 23 percent THC) plant material
  • No more than 26.55 grams of THC content in topicals
  • No more than 9.9 grams of THC content in oil, tincture, capsule, or edible forms for oral administration
  • No more than 53.1 grams of THC content in oil for vaporization

As long as the aggregate does not exceed a 90-day supply, patients may purchase multiple forms of cannabis.

Consumption

Public consumption is prohibited. Patients can consume medical marijuana in a private residence if it is approved by the property owner.

The following forms of marijuana are authorized:

  • Oils (for vaping or oral administration)
  • Tinctures
  • Plant material
  • Edibles
  • Patches
  • Lotions, creams, and ointments

Patients may submit a petition online to add a form or method of administration that is not on this list.

Smoking cannabis is prohibited, but patients are allowed to vape.

Cannabis Transport and Delivery

Ohio’s law states that patients and caregivers “shall store medical marijuana in a secure location so as to prevent theft, loss, or access by persons not authorized” to consume medical marijuana and that medical marijuana “shall be maintained in one of the following containers at all times until administered to or by a patient:”

  • The original dispensing package with the unaltered label,
  • The container provided by the dispensary

Given these details, the safest way to transport medical marijuana is directly from the dispensary to the patient’s private residence in the unopened, original container the cannabis was dispensed in. Additionally, medical marijuana should be placed in the trunk or locked in the glove compartment.

Ohio’s law specifically states that “no dispensary shall transport medical marijuana or medical marijuana products to residences of patients or caregivers.” Given that there is no delivery licensure available for businesses, it’s safe to say that any weed delivery happening in Ohio is currently illegal.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence of marijuana is prohibited. Penalties are the same as they are for driving under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances.

Exporting Cannabis

According to both Federal and state law, exporting cannabis across state lines is illegal. Leave your cannabis at home before traveling out of or into Ohio.

Personal Cultivation

Patients and their caregivers are not allowed to cultivate or extract medical marijuana. The only legal way to access medical marijuana products is to buy them from state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

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