MedicateOH is grateful to Mary Jane Borden and the Columbus Free Press for allowing us to reprint local cannabis stories to reach a wider audience.

Cannabis Crossroads. Ohio history. New bills. Decrim successes.  

Selected bites of fresh cannabis news sliced from the headlines, with a legislative flavor and sweet Ohio twist. Sources are linked.

Mary Jane’s Library:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Ohio History Project

This project from the Natural Therapies Education Foundation (NTEF) will be part of the “Cannabis Crossroads: What’s in Store for Marijuana Reform in Ohio?” panel discussion on November 19th, 12:00-1:30pm via Zoom. You can register here.

The NTEF History Project can be viewed here. A comparison current reform proposals crafted by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) is here as a Q & A and hereas a PDF.

  • First recorded medicinal use: “… the earliest book recording Chinese medicinal practices, the Pen Ts’ao Ching, in around 2737 BC, “in which hemp was recognized for its ability to treat over 100 medical issues including gout, malaria and rheumatism.” 
  • Western Medicine. Physicians working in India introduced cannabis to Britain. In 1843, Dr. John Clendinning wrote “Observations on the Medicinal Properties of Cannabis Sativa of India” that contained case reports of various patients being successfully treated with hemp tinctures.  
  • Ohio Medicine. The “Report of the Ohio State Medical Committee on Cannabis Indica” was presented in 1860 at the 15th Annual Meeting of the Ohio State Medical Society held in White Sulphur Springs, Ohio. Report extoled “beneficial effects” of cannabis on insomnia, convulsions, seizures and a host of other conditions.
  • Prohibition began – the Anti-Saloon League. During the early 1900s, the Progressive Era belief in government-supervised social purity and moral reform inspired passage of laws, amendments and treaties that criminalized substances. One major force was the Anti-Saloon League based in Westerville, Ohio, which pressed for passage of the 18th Amendment outlawing alcohol in 1919; the 21st Amendment ratified in 1933 repealed it.
  • The Gore Files.  Harry Anslinger, the godfather of cannabis prohibition, directed the Bureau of Narcotics (DEA) to collect cases of heinous criminal acts supposedly committed under the influence of “Medical Marihuana” to subsequently report in the media. For example, “In Columbus, Ohio, a 35-year-old man was sentenced to the electric chair for robbery and first-degree murder … His plea of not guilty was based on insanity due to smoking marihuana cigarettes …” The Gore Files begat Reefer Madness in 1936 and the Marijuana Tax Actin 1938.
  • Prohibition escalated – The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. Consolidated several anti-drug laws into one scheme that classifies substances into five schedules, the most restrictive of which is Schedule I where marijuana has remained for 50 years. The Uniform Controlled Substances Act, passed in tandem with the CSA, applies the scheduling system to the states, Ohio being one of them.
  • The first decrim. The Shafer Commission Report, published in 1972, recommended marijuana decriminalization, which several states including Ohio undertook in 1975. Much of this effort emanated Richard Wolfe and his family’s media dynasty. Read the account here
  • Repeal of SB 2. The 1980s and 1990s were marked by passage of over 10 federal anti-drug laws. Ohio followed suit. As the second act of the legislative calendar in 1997, Ohio lawmakers spouted “reefer madness” to repeal SB 2, the “medical purposes affirmative defense” that sick patients could assert in court to defend their medicinal use. Read activist John Hartman’s account here and the Bill Analysis here. Listen to the March 12, 1997, hearing here (testimony begins around 48 minutes).
  • Journey for Justice. Frustrated by the repeal of SB 2, Ohio medical cannabis patients – some in wheelchairs – embarked on a 5-day, 130 mile “Journey for Justice” from Oregon, Ohio to Columbus, the state capitol on May 26-31, 1997.  Here are videos: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 & 4, Day 5and Video with Newscasts.
  • Decade of Defeats. Spinning from the rebuff of SB 2, the 2000s saw introduction of one bill into the Ohio General Assembly for each of the two-year legislative cycles – a total of seven through 2015 – with only one receiving proponent testimony hearing in 2008. Further, in 2002, Issue 2 – The Ohio Drug Treatment in Lieu of Incarceration – constitutional amendment made the ballot, only to be soundly defeated by 67% of Ohio voters. It would have mandated drug treatment, instead of jail time, for first- and second-time, nonviolent drug users.
  • Decade of Progress. Since 2008, over twenty marijuana-focused citizen-led ballot initiatives have been submitted to the Ohio Attorney General for certification the gather the signatures of registered Ohio voters necessary for ballot placement. Of them, only ten actually received that certification. The three most notable were a.) the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment (2013) by the Ohio Rights Group that would have established cannabis as constitutional right aligned with the Bill of Rights in the Ohio Constitution. Collected 150,000 all-volunteer signatures but lacked funding to make the ballot; b.) the Marijuana Legalization Amendment (2015) by Responsible Ohio. The famed “monopoly” would have enshrined into the Ohio Constitution 10 pre-selected cultivation sites owned by the investors who funded the amendment. Rejected by voters 65-35%; c.) the Medical Use of Marijuana Amendment (2016) by Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, with help from the Marijuana Policy Project. Would have established a regulatory framework in the Ohio Constitution. Pulled after passage of HB 523 in May 2016.
  • Finally, Medical Marijuana comes to Ohio – HB 523.  This Bill that created the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program evolved through three public town hall meetings and seven Medical Marijuana Task Force hearings. Passed by both the Ohio House (67-29) and Ohio Senate (18-15) in less than one month. On June 8, 2016, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed HB 523 into law. Required to be fully in place by September 8, 2018. The first cultivation applications were approved in 2017 and the first dispensaries opened in January 2019. Read Taskforce testimony here, the ORG President’s Senate testimony here and the details of HB 523 here.
  • Cannabis Crossroads: What’s in Store for Marijuana Reform in Ohio? After 4700 years since cannabis’ first recorded medicinal use; 160 years since the Ohio Medical Society extolled its medical benefits; 100 years since prohibition was invented in Westerville; 85 years since the Gore files begat Reefer Madness; 50 years since the CSA trapped cannabis into an web of excessive restrictions; 25 years since the repeal of SB 2 and the Journey for Justice; and after 20 years of legislative and ballot issue defeats, finally – yes, finally – Ohio has a functional medical marijuana program. As noted in the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center’s recent report, “Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program at Three Years,” Ohio’s medical cannabis patients are generally satisfied with the program. It was a long arduous process, however, which begs the question, at this cannabis cross roads, what’s in store for marijuana reform in Ohio? A question that will make an interesting, thoughtful and timely discussion on November 19th.
  • Read this Ohio history lesson as a PDF here.

Federal

  • House bills= 38 and Senate bills = 15, for a Total of 53.
  • MORE Act 2021.  This adult use bill, introduced once by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on 9/30/21 by 26-15. Here is Rep. Nadler’s statement to mark the occasion.
  • Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). On 7/14/21, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) released a Discussion Draft of a U.S. Senate bill to fully legalize cannabis. Here is the full language of the bill. Here is a summary of key points of interest. Here is an analysis from the Tax Foundation that includes state level tax rates on adult use cannabis. Although there has been no recent movement on the proposed bill, Senator Schumer continues to tweet in favor of reform.
  • H.R. 4350 – National Defense Authorization Act.  This bill,authorizing appropriations for national defense, included Amendment 97 (basically the Safe Banking Act) that would prohibit federal regulators from penalizing financial institutions that provide services to cannabis related businesses. The bill passed the House by 316-293 and was received by the Senate on 10/18/21.

Ohio

  • Legislative intransience on marijuana has always been a problem in Ohio. Why should now be different. A recent Gongwer Werth Legislative Opinion Poll found that only 36% of Ohio’s Democratic lawmakers support legalizing adult use marijuana, while a much greater 43% of Republicans hold that view. Democrats are much more likely to endorse home grow (71%) compared to Republicans (21%). However, three quarters of Republicans still hold that “Reefer Madness” mindset that marijuana leads to addiction.  
  • Ballot Initiative: Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA).  With the Ohio Ballot Board’s 8/30/21 affirmative ruling on the single subject requirement, the campaign is now permitted to collect the 132,887 signatures of registered voters necessary to place the law before the General Assembly and enact Chapter 3780 of the Ohio Revised Code. It would, “authorize and regulate cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, home grow, and use of adult use cannabis by adults at least twenty-one years of age (‘adult use’ consumers).” Here is the Coalition’s website. Here is the initiative’s searchable text in PDF format. And here is one-page bulleted key point list of the proposed statute’s provisions. Those who want to help with the campaign can sign up here.
  • Ohio Adult Use Act (proposed). Ohio Representatives Jamie Callendar (R-61) and Ron Ferguson (R-96) plan to introduce this measure that, per their statehouse press release, would dovetail with H.R. 3105, a federal bill introduced by U.S. Congressman Dave Joyce in May. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the OAUA would “build on the state’s existing medical marijuana program,” include a 10% tax on sales, permit adult possession of 5 ounces, and allow home grow of six plants. The bill does not yet appear on the Ohio legislature’s website.
  • H.B. 60.  Introduced by Representatives Juanita Brent (D-134) and Bill Seitz (R-30) on 2/3/21 with the short title “Authorize medical marijuana for autism spectrum disorder.” No recent action. Read the bill’s legislative text here, its analysis here and its fiscal notes here.
  • H.B. 203.  Introduced by Senator Nathan H. Manning (R-13) on 6/23/21 with the short title “Regards operating a vehicle under the influence of marihuana.” No cosponsors. First hearing held on 9/21/21 as Sponsor testimony. Here is the bill analysis and here is the bill’s text. Bill would raise urine and blood levels for being “under the influence” of marijuana.
  • H.B. 382.  Introduced by Representative Casey Weinstein (D-37) on 8/2/21, with the short title, “Allow cultivation, possession of marijuana; levy a tax.” This legislation represents the first time that a legal framework for adult cannabis use has been proposed to the Ohio General Assembly. Here is the bill’s text and here is a key point analysis. Referred to the House Finance Committee on 9/21/21.
  • S.B. 25. Introduced by Ohio Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-2) on 1/26/21 with the short title “Enact Relapse Reduction Act regarding drug tests and trafficking.” Recently gained 16 co-sponsors and passed by Senate on 9/15/21 with a 29 to 1 vote. Here is the passed version, here is the bill analysis, and here are the fiscal notes. The bill proceeded to the Ohio House where it received a Proponent Testimony hearing on 10/12/21. Here is Senator Gavarone’s testimony. The bill would increase penalties for drug activity near a drug treatment center or recovering addict, and for defrauding drug tests.
  • S.B. 261. Introduced by Ohio Senator Stephen Huffman (R-5) on 11/9/21, with the short title “Revise the medical marijuana law.” Has one cosponsor, Senator Kenny Yuko (D-25). Among other provisions, the bill would enlarge cultivation areas, add qualifying medical conditions, create a division of marijuana control, remove the pharmacy board and permit “inhalation” (aka smoking). Here is the bill’s language.

Decrim

  • Sensible Decrim.  As of 10/4/21,  this productive collaboration among Bill Schmitt, Jr., the Sensible Movement Coalition and NORML Appalachia collected sufficient signatures to place decriminalization initiatives on the ballot in 14 Ohio cities. On Election Day 11/2/21, Seven measures passed: Martins Ferry, Murray City, New Lexington, New Straightsville, Rayland, Tiltonsville, and Yorkville passed. A total of 2,199,834 Ohioans in 29 Ohio cities, or 28% of Ohio’s adult population, are now covered by marijuana decriminalization. Generally speaking, they may possess up to 200 grams of cannabis with no fines and no time.

OMMCP (Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program)

  • OMMCP by the Numbers. As of October 26, there were: 216,471 total registered patients; 198,139 totalpurchasers; 131,536 active patients;14,654 veterans;16,269 with indigent status; 637 recommending physicians; 57 operating dispensaries; 36 operating processors; and 4 operating testing laboratories. Total sales since inception: 66,336 lbs. of plant material; 5,805,618 manufactured product units; and $585.8 million in product sales. The average price of plant material for 1/10 oz (or 2.83 grams) is $28.44. Here is a table of total products sold by form since May 2020. Here is a November 2021 report from the Executive Director of the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Statistics concerning the Control Program begin on Page 4.
  • Caregivers.  In March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pharmacy Board temporarily expanded caregivers to three per patient and three patients per caregiver. As of 9/8/21, the system reverted back to two caregivers per patient and two patients per caregiver. Only recommending physicians will again register caregivers. Procedures for registering as a caregiver can be found here.
  • New qualifying conditions.  Every year beginning on November 1st and ending on December 31st, the State Medical Board of Ohio opens a period during which the public may submit petitions to add new qualifying medical conditions to the OMMCP. Procedures are here.
  • Dispensary Applications.  The Board of Pharmacy issued a Request for Dispensary Applications to fulfill their goal of expanding such businesses to an additional 73. Note that  a single owner may be awarded no more than five provisional licenses. Selection will be conducted via a drawing. Application Instructions can be found here. The application process will be open from 11/4/21 to 11/18/21.  
  • Newest dispensaries. Harvest of Beavercreek opened its doors at 4370 Tonawanda Trl., Beavercreek, 45430. Here is the Beavercreek menu. Harvest of Athens also opened at 711 W. Union Street, Athens, 45701. Here is the Athens menu. Both are minority owned and female-led.
  • Cultivators.  There are currently 15 Level I Ohio Cultivators12 Level II cultivators with operating licenses. Lists of them in alphabetical order can be found here.
  • Cultivation Expansion:  Anticipating an increasing number of dispensaries, the Ohio Department of Commerce began on 10/1/21 to accept applications from licensed cultivators who want to expand their growing areas from 25,000 sq ft to 50,000 sq ft for Level I and from 3,000 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft for Level II. Expansion criteria can be found here and the application here. Only one expansion application per cultivator per year.
  • Wave Televisits Goodbye?  Not so fast … again.  At its meeting on November 10th, the Ohio Medical Board voted to extend them until 3/31/22.  
  • Diversity.  On 9/3/21, Representative Juanita Brent held a press conference to highlight the lack of diversity in Ohio’s cannabis industry as evidenced by just eight of the state’s 57 dispensaries having minority ownership.
  • Evaluating Satisfaction and Perception.  The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, part of the OSU Moritz College of Law, recently published results from its annual survey concerning patient satisfaction with the OMMCP five years after enactment of HB 523. There is some dissatisfaction with the program, although these levels declined in 2021. Even so, the vast majority of patients are satisfied with the safety offered it offers. Problems identified included: home grow (very popular with patients), large licensing fees (costs passed down to patients), patient fees, purchase limitations, limited number of cultivators even with expanding dispensaries, home delivery, dearth of recommending physicians and lack of employment protections. Report contains excellent graphs including price comparisons. Read it here. A bullet point summary is here.

In other news

  • DEPC Annual Report.  The Drug Education and Policy Center (DEPC), affiliated with the OSU Moritz College of Law, recently published its 2020-21 Annual Report that overviews its activities in marijuana decriminalization, legalization, sentencing and expungement.
  • DEPC Call for Proposals.  The Drug Education and Policy Center has issued a 2021-2022 call for proposals to university researchers and independent research centers to submit proposals for funded research as outlined here. Deadline for first-round submissions is 1/14/22.
  • Americans for Safe Access offered a detailed, comprehensive and patient-focused reply to the proposed CAOA federal adult use legislation, which can be read here.
  • Cannabis Freedom Alliance.  This newly formed organization to advocate for federal marijuana policy recently published two important white papers: “Recommendations for Federal Regulation of Legal Cannabis” and “Outline of Equity Goals in Cannabis Regulation.”
  • Leafly Cannabis Harvest Report 2021: Meet America’s 5th most valuable crop.  “In those 11 adult-use states, cannabis supports 13,042 licensed farms that harvested 2,278 metric tons of marijuana last year.” The USDA does not track these statistics as it does for virtually every other crop, so Leafly had to do this for us. Read this groundbreaking report here.
  • Free Cannabis Prisoners.  Even though cannabis has become a billion dollar industry, some individuals still remain incarcerated for federal marijuana crimes. Help bring them home by signing this Change.org petition here.

Events

Second Saturday Salon. November 13 @ 7-8:00 pm. Zoom. Monthly event for Ohio’s progressive community sponsored by the Columbus Free Press. Event is FREE. Check the Free Press Facebook page for the Zoom link.

Cannabis Crossroads: What’s in Store for Marijuana Reform in Ohio? November 19 @ 12:00-1:30pm. Zoom. Jointly sponsored by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center part of the OSU Moritz College of Law and by the Natural Therapies Education Foundation. Event is FREE. Register here.

WomenCann:  Lead “Educational panel and networking event.” Saturday, November 20th @ 12:00pm. CannabisHub at The Cleveland School of Cannabis (Columbus Campus), 3700 Corporate Drive, Columbus, 43231. Featuring Dr. Bridget Williams of Green Harvest Health. Event is FREE. Register here.

Canned Food Drive. Sunday, November 21st @ 12:00-3:00pm.  Cleveland School of Cannabis – Columbus, 3700 Corporate Drive, Columbus, 43231. Jointly sponsored by Cannabis Can and The Botanist.

Tales from the Bizarre

  • What would happen if?  You’re walking around downtown Columbus to visit City Hall, the Statehouse and the federal court building. All three are just two minutes apart. Oops! You forgot about that ounce of herbal cannabis in your backpack. If you perchance encounter law enforcement – well, you’re busted! – what penalties might you face? The bizarre part is it depends, as you see in this table. At City Hall, that mistake would carry a $10 fine. However, a mere two minutes away or a couple steps from the curb at the federal courthouse, yikes! You’re looking at a $1,000 fine and the possibility of a year in jail! But, you say, I’m a registered patient with Ohio’s medical marijuana control program. Heck, at City Hall, the Statehouse and on that curb, the fine should be zero. The Feds, though, don’t care: cannabis is federally illegal everywhere – fine, jail time and maybe asset forfeiture if on federal property, no matter what (at least in theory). And, if you have prior federal marijuana arrests, that ounce could find you incarcerated two or more years. Do you always know on whose property your feet stand? The moral of this story: Be careful what you carry! (Oh, and change those bizarre federal laws!)

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