At present, recreational weed is still prohibited in Ohio and it looks like the state is in no rush to legalize it. Efforts to get an adult-use marijuana legalization initiative to last year’s ballot failed since advocates were not able to gather enough signatures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was also reported that only a few medical cannabis licensees supported the ballot initiative last year. Judging from this tepid response from the industry, coupled with the fact that an amount of less than 100 grams has already been decriminalized since 1975, it’s easy to assume that lawmakers are currently under no pressure to introduce bills that will legalize possession, sales and cultivation of recreational marijuana.
However, legislators do recognize the need to give patients better access to cannabis medication. Earlier this month, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy mulled over a rule that limits the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state at 60. The decision to reconsider the cap came after a survey showed that 20% of patients had to travel over 30 miles from home just to get the marijuana products that they need.
In addition to this, Matt Close, an executive from the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association said that patient numbers had been growing rapidly since the first dispensaries opened in January 2019. Close adds that the lack of dispensaries and poor patient access could compromise the safety of patients.
Once the board gives the proposal a green light, it would then have to pass a state legislative board which will decide whether the rules exceed an agency’s authority, or conflict with rules in another state agency, among others. If approved, the rule changes will go into effect, increasing the number of licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in the state.
Overview of Ohio Marijuana Laws
Medical marijuana is already legal in Ohio but its cultivation is prohibited. Recreational marijuana of any kind is still completely illegal but decriminalized.
- Possession – Possession of up to 200 grams in Ohio is a misdemeanor but an amount under 100 grams gets no jail time. Any amount in excess of this is already a felony.
- Less than 100 g – a fine of $150
- 100g to 200 g – a jail sentence of up to 30 days and a maximum fine of $250
- 200 g to 1000 g – a jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of $2500
- 1000 g to 20,000 g – a jail sentence one up to 5 years and a maximum fine of $10,000
- 20,000 g to 40,000 g – a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 5 years up to 8 years and a maximum fine of $15,000
- More than 20,000 g – a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 8 years and a maximum fine of $20,000
- Sale/Distribution – Giving 20 grams of less for the first and second time is considered a misdemeanor while giving or selling an amount greater is already a felony with penalties the same as possession. Term of imprisonment and fines will increase if the offense happens within 1000 feet of a school, within 100 feet of a juvenile, involves a minor, or by someone one who has a previous drug conviction.
- Giving 20g or less – a fine of $150
- Second offense – jail time of up to 60 days and a maximum fine of $500
- Giving 20g or less – a fine of $150
- Cultivation – Cultivation receives the same penalties as possession and depends on the weight of the marijuana involved in the offense.
History of Marijuana in Ohio
Even though Ohio is still lagging way behind in terms of marijuana reform, it was actually one of the first states that decriminalized cannabis. In 1975 under Republican governor James Rhodes, it became the sixth state to bring down the possession of up to 100 grams to a minor misdemeanor that carries no jail time.
However, further legalization efforts failed to see any success year after year. Even in 2015, a ballot measure that attempted to legalize recreational use lost at the polls. The initiative, Issue 3, would have allowed adults aged 21 and older to use and sell pot as well as commercial-scale cultivation. It would have even permitted Ohioans to grow as many as four mature plants for just a $50 license. However, it was clear that the whole state was not yet ready since the measure had reportedly gotten weak support even from marijuana advocacy groups like NORML and Marijuana Policy Project.
Nevertheless, medical marijuana was legalized the following year after Gov. John Kasich signed HB 523 into law. It established a decent medical marijuana program and patients were even allowed to bring back cannabis legally acquired in other states. As many as 21 qualifying conditions were also included in the law, which are AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Crohn’s disease, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, ulcerative colitis, chronic/severe/intractable pain and any other disease or condition added by the state medical board. However, the law did not allow cannabis to be smoked. Instead, it should only be in edible, oil, vapor, patch, tincture, or plant matter form.
In the same year, Gov. Kasich also repealed the “smoke a joint, lose your license” policy that was originally enacted at the federal level.
Perhaps one of the reasons why lawmakers are not pressured to change the state’s recreational marijuana policy is because municipal-level reforms have already loosened rules significantly. For example, in 2015, the city of Toledo voted to remove penalties for possession and cultivation under 200 grams. In 2018, Dayton also removed all penalties for possession of 100 grams or less. Most recently, Cleveland eliminated penalties for amounts up to 200 grams.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Ohio
How do Ohio’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about marijuana legalization in Ohio
Adult-use cannabis is still illegal in Ohio.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not yet allowed in Ohio.
Yes, medical cannabis is allowed in Ohio.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy is considering adding more medical marijuana dispensaries to keep up with the increase in the number of patients and to provide better access to marijuana medication.
While there currently are petitions seeking to put a measure that would legalize recreational marijuana to the ballot, it’s likely that no bills that would seek the same will be introduced this year.
None, it is still illegal to cultivate cannabis for medical or recreational purposes in Ohio.
Ohio residents are not allowed to cultivate marijuana at home.
Growing marijuana in Ohio is still illegal for residents of all ages.
As a relatively Red state, it seems that Ohio wants to wait for the federal government to change its marijuana policy before it considers rethinking recreational weed. Like marijuana policy expert Tom Haren said last year, once marijuana gets de-scheduled under federal law, Ohio’s law would automatically make the change to no longer consider pot a controlled substance. However, the state’s lawmakers would likely make a move before any legal consequences against possession or sales are nullified and they may either create an adult-use program or change the law to specifically ban marijuana. Nevertheless, at least Ohio patients can still look forward to more dispensaries this year and possibly more bills that will give them better access and consumer protections.