Ohio: Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Vaporization Measure

Columbus, OH: Governor John Kasich has signed legislation into law establishing regulations for the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis formulations to qualified patients.

House Bill 523 authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for patients suffering from AIDS/HIV, cancer, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress, and several other qualifying diagnoses. The new law formally takes effect on September 6, 2016.

Once the program is operational, cannabis-specific products will be dispensed to patients as oils, tinctures, edibles, patches, or as herbal material. Smoking herbal cannabis is not permitted under the measure; however, the legislation does not clarify how this prohibition would be enforced. Home cultivation of cannabis is not permitted under the law. The THC content in herbal cannabis will be limited to 35 percent under the measure, while extracts will be capped at 75 percent THC.

The vaporizing of medical cannabis products by patients is permitted by the legislation. Similar smoking restrictions exist in four other states: Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Although the program is not anticipated to be fully operational until early 2018, provisions in the law provide limited legal protections for qualifying patients who acquire cannabis from alternative sources prior to this date.

Ohio is the 26th state to enact statutory language permitting the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. Last month, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed legislation amending the state’s dormant medical marijuana law to permit the licensed production and distribution of cannabis-infused preparations to qualified patients. However, patients will not likely have access to cannabis products under that law until late 2017 or 2018.

Proponents who sought to place a separate, broader medical marijuana measure on the 2016 Ohio ballot recently announced that they were suspending their campaign, stating: “[A]ll in all, [HB 523] is a moderately good piece of legislation passed by lawmakers who were pushed hard by the patient community. We plan on continuing forward as an advocacy effort to ensure that the state of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, but also working to better the program utilizing our amendment as a road map for those improvements.”

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.