As the policy debates surrounding federal cannabis reform wages on, Ohioans are doing their part in advocating for safe, legal access to medical cannabis for patients as well as to decriminalize marijuana on a statewide level.

Here’s what’s been happening lately, including how you can help….

2019 was a historic year for Ohio patients. Legal cannabis became available at dispensaries for the first time! That alone seems like an amazing statement.

It would be.. IF there weren’t so many flaws with nearly every aspect of how Ohio’s medical marijuana program operates. Rumors of corruption and back-door deals combined with proven problems like poor quality, shortages, failure to provide reciprocity with other states and restrictive qualifying conditions all contribute to public mistrust. 

Medical Marijuana Program

The development of the medical marijuana program in Ohio faces many challenges. Patients have little recourse to address issues. Activists are constantly working to be heard and bring about the needed change. There have been submissions to add to the list of qualifying conditions. An application to add autism was submitted by the Autism Alliance of Ohio and the Ohio Patient Network has applied to add opioid use disorder. There is hope for a brighter future for the patients that find legal cannabis unattainable. 

Legalization of medical marijuana is life-changing for many people. However, there are still thousands of patients that the law doesn’t help. Those patients have one resounding demand, “Let us grow!”

Unfortunately, those demands fall on deaf ears in Ohio. Even the Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee’s own appointed patient advocate was silenced and eventually terminated despite numerous attempts to be heard. (Thanks for trying, Bob!). While meetings of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee are to be held regularly, they have not been on a monthly basis and public comment is not permitted. Questions and concerns should be addressed to the new appointee, Chris Stock, at chrisdstock@hotmail.com.

Recreational Legalization and Home Grow

In Ohio, when the subject of homegrow is discussed, it isn’t long before the bitterness of past statewide initiatives reigns its ugly head. There are a couple moves toward statewide legalization in 2020. First, a bill looking for sponsors. Rep. Juanita Brent has introduced a bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. This would also allow adults the ability to legally grow up to 500 plants. You can help by contacting your state representatives and asking them to sponsor the Adult Use Cannabis Bill. 

Another approach to legalization is a grassroots movement collecting signatures to legalize Ohio. The group is in the early stages of a, yet unfunded but dedicated, statewide initiative that would allow adults the right to possess, transport, use, share and cultivate cannabis.  You can help by contacting Legalize Ohio or We Grow Ohio and collecting signatures near you. 

Despite the recent reports showing that there are nearly 75,000 registered medical marijuana patients in Ohio, there are thousands of people that are still unable to obtain the legal medicine they desperately need. The cost of the recommendation, registration and dispensary prices are all financial hurdles that many consumers simply cannot afford. As if that isn’t enough, Ohio has decided to go with an unheard of, and rarely understood, 90 day limit using a non-traditional system of one-tenth units. This requires patients to make more frequent trips to dispensaries or lose the opportunity to purchase their full amount allowed. It also means that the only time a patient can purchase their full 90-day supply is during their very first purchase as a patient..unless, of course, they abstain from buying any medicine for a full 3 month period. That isn’t good for patients, licensed marijuana businesses or the state. One might think such a thing would support the black market. 

Patients that cannot obtain medicine legally will sometimes feel that the benefit of obtaining cannabis, through any means, is greater than the risk. Those risks are not the same for all.  An analysis of thousands of traffic stops in Ohio shows that blacks are stopped at a much higher rate than whites and are much more likely to face charges. There is no question that racial bias is widespread. This is one of the reasons why sensible marijuana reform is so important. 

Sensible Decrim completely removes the fine, the possibility of jail time and all court costs for the possession of misdemeanor amounts. This is important because other states have shown that partial decrim doesn’t work.

-Jolie Moyer

Sensible Decriminalization

Sensible decriminalization is different from traditional marijuana decriminalization. Traditionally, decriminalization only reduces the penalty for small amounts. Sensible Decrim completely removes the fine, the possibility of jail time and all court costs for the possession of misdemeanor amounts. This is important because other states have shown that partial decrim doesn’t work. It actually has, in some cases, contributed to greater racial discrepancy in arrests. To date, Ohio activists have passed Sensible Decriminalization language in 16 cities, protecting nearly 2 million citizens. Cleveland is expected to finalize their work on a Sensible Decrim in the next several weeks. There are dozens of other cities working on decriminalization, both by legislation and by citizen initiative. Contact Sensible Movement Coalition to find out how you can help or start a local citizen’s initiative of your own.

Decriminalization isn’t just needed at the local level. Sensible Movement Coalition has submitted a white paper with language that would offer protection for the possession of under 840g and allows for up to a 24 plant home grow without penalty. You can help by contacting your state representatives and urging them to sponsor the Sensible Adult Use Marijuana Decriminalization. 

The importance of becoming an active participant in our own medical decisions cannot be minimized. All citizens deserve the right to safe and affordable medicine. Organizations like NORML Appalachia of Ohio work diligently to reform marijuana laws at the local, state and federal levels. Watch for the re-opening of Cleveland NORML soon. You can help by joining organizations like these and activity participating in supporting candidates that work towards common sense cannabis reform.