Ever since the Ohio General Assembly in 2016 passed a law legalizing medicinal marijuana and creating a state-overseen process for patients to get it, there has been confusion about the ins and outs of the program. Add to that legal technicalities around products like CBD that some say have therapeutic qualities but don’t contain THC — the chemical compound in marijuana that creates its distinctive high — and you’ve got yourself a lot of details to sort through.
Here’s a handy guide with all the basics.
Ohio’s medicinal marijuana program has had a slow start — it was supposed to be up and running last September, but legal battles and licensing complications meant that it didn’t launch until December last year, when patient registries opened. Since that time, almost 25,000 Ohioans have successfully registered as patients and almost 10,000 have purchased medicinal marijuana. The process looks like this:
A person with any of the following conditions may be eligible to buy medicinal marijuana under the state’s 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 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.
A patient must have an in-person appointment with one of the state’s roughly 450 certified physicians who hold a Certificate to Recommend from the Ohio Medical Board and maintain regular appointments with that doctor. That physician can then submit the patient’s name to the state’s patient registry along with the patient’s state ID. In some cases, a caregiver may represent the patient on the state’s registry.
The patient must then log in to an online version of the registry, complete their application, and pay an annual $50 registration fee. Caregivers go through the same process, but pay a $25 fee.
Once accepted on the registry by the state, a doctor may recommend for a patient a 90-day supply of the appropriate medicinal marijuana product as well as up to three refills depending on the patient.
Ohio’s medical marijuana law allows 16 large-scale cultivators and another 16 smaller-scale cultivators. So far, eight of the large-scale (or Level 1) cultivators have received final approval to grow marijuana and nine of the Level 2 cultivators have received their certifications to do so.
Currently, 13 dispensaries across Ohio have received final approval from the state. Eventually, 56 total dispensaries that have received provisional licenses should be part of the program. Three of those — Green Rx LLC, Pharmacann Ohio LLC and Care Med Associates LLC — will be in Hamilton County, though they have not yet received their final licensing.
Until this month, only buds from the marijuana plant were available for purchase. But the state has given final licensing to two of the 40 processors allowed under the law — Grow Ohio Pharmaceuticals and Standard Wellness Company — and both have begun producing tinctures (liquid extracts), with other products like edibles and oils coming soon.
The state has set up a toll-free helpline for residents interested in the program. You can call 833-464-6627 for more information about medicinal marijuana.
CBD Oil and Other Products
Another area of confusion is Cannabidiol, most commonly known as CBD. Over the past few years, a wave of products like beverages and oils featuring the compound derived from hemp, a plant related to marijuana but containing only trace amounts of THC, hit the shelves of local stores. But late last year, Ohio law enforcement clamped down on some of these items, including products from Cincinnati-based Queen City Hemp, forcing store owners to take them off the shelves.
So — is CBD legal? What’s going on?
As it turns out, state and federal laws don’t treat CBD differently than other cannabis products, despite the fact they don’t get you high.
"CBD is considered marijuana under Ohio law,” a fact sheet from the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program states. “This means that it can be only be sold legally if it is cultivated, processed, dispensed, tested, possessed or used for a medical purpose under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.”
The fact sheet has similar information about federal laws governing marijuana — although those laws don’t technically allow for the state’s medical marijuana program, either.
Given that regulatory framework, the state contends that businesses outside Ohio’s medical marijuana industry are not permitted to sell CBD products, including beverages and oils.
"Marijuana products, including CBD (Cannabidiol) oil, can only be dispensed in a licensed Medical Marijuana Control Program dispensary,” the state’s fact sheet says. “Those marijuana products will have to comply with the rules and regulations of the program.”
That isn’t the case in every state. Kentucky passed a law in 2017 allowing the legal sale and consumption of CBD as long as it comes from industrial hemp and contains no more than .3 percent THC.
Ohio’s law could also change soon, though. Last year, the federal government removed hemp from its controlled substances list.
In February, lawmakers in the Ohio Senate introduced legislation that would allow for industrial hemp cultivation and the production and sale of products containing CBD.
If SB57 passes, the state’s Department of Agriculture could issue cultivation licenses good for five years. Those licenses would not be available to those who have had felony drug convictions in the past decade.
The legislation also stipulates that cultivators would be subject to random regulatory tests to ensure that their products contained only trace amounts of THC. If a cultivator failed three of those tests, they would be barred from having a license in the future.
Purchasing hemp-derived products, however, would not require a license under the bill, opening up the door to legal CBD sales.