Will Ohioans ever be able to cultivate their own cannabis plants?
Medical marijuana patients with conditions that are tricky to treat may wonder: If I know a cannabis strain works for me, why can’t I grow it myself at home? Home-growing of cannabis is a hotly-debated topic across the country. Especially in states like Ohio where medical marijuana can only be purchased from state dispensaries, home-growing could provide a much-needed alternative for many patients.
As more patients enter medical marijuana programs, so does the need for specialty cannabis cultivated for particular medicinal properties. Certain strains, cannabinoid combinations, and terpene profiles have shown to possess healing properties that might not be accessible in forms you find in your local dispensary. Across the U.S. in states where looser laws allow it, home-growers have filled in the gaps to become an integral part of the cannabis supply chain.
Where Is Home-Growing of Cannabis Legal?
It is not legal to grow marijuana plants at home in Ohio, but our neighbor to the north has some of the least restrictive laws governing home growing in the country. Michiganders can grow up to twelve plants in their home for personal use. A caregiver in Michigan can have up to five patients for which they can grow 12 plants. They can grow either indoors or outdoors in an enclosed locked facility.
Also in Michigan, home-growers are free to make concentrates or use the marijuana in any other way allowed by law. In addition to Michigan, some of the states that allow patients to grow their own cannabis are Washington, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. Some of these states have restrictive requirements to be eligible to grow marijuana at home. In Arizona and Nevada, for instance, patients can only grow their own cannabis if they live more than twenty-five miles from a dispensary.
Patient Access & Benefits of Home-Growing of Cannabis
Legalizing home growing in many states has been chiefly about giving more patients access to cannabis. Patients unable to drive to a dispensary or outside of the 25-mile radius of a dispensary still get the marijuana they need when the state allows home grow. Beyond access to high-quality medicine, proponents of home-growing believe that it will ultimately bring dispensary prices down as demand shifts.
Patients can experience numerous benefits by growing marijuana at home. Gardening can positively affect your mental health. Horticultural therapy is an established psychological treatment. By learning about strains, cross-breeding, and genetics, patients gain an appreciation for the cannabis plant. Marijuana can carry a hefty price tag since it isn’t typically covered by insurance. By making home growing legal, many people who could not afford medical marijuana otherwise could get access to a medicine that could positively impact them significantly.
The Drawbacks to Home-Growing
One of the main drawbacks critics cite against legalizing home-growing marijuana is safety. Marijuana purchased from a state dispensary gets thoroughly tested for pesticides and mold. Home-growers that lack experience may make mistakes or use shortcuts that experienced cultivators wouldn’t, resulting in medicine that may not be safe to use. While marijuana growing is not particularly difficult, medical marijuana patients with compromised immune systems could potentially become sicker from accidentally growing and using moldy or chemically-treated marijuana.
The possibility of a patient growing their own unsafe cannabis weighs sharply against the benefit to a patient who didn’t have access to any cannabis at all. The most vocal activists against home grow, though, aren’t safety-focused. Legal cultivators fear a dip in profits by allowing patients to grow at home. Cultivators often employ lobbying groups to fight to strike down home-grow initiatives.
Support of Home-Grow: Cultivators
While many cultivators don’t support home growing due to concerns over market share, several cultivators in Ohio have come out publicly to support those who want to grow their medicine at home. Akron-based Galenas and Fire Rock Ltd., and Zanesville’s Grow Ohio were three cultivators that vocalized support for home grow.
Galenas publicly specified across their social media platforms that they support patients’ right to grow their own medicine at home. It may seem counterintuitive for a company to support what ultimately could be viewed as a competitor. But Galenas Head Cultivator Christine DeJesus explained that when patients can grow at home, it helps the industry as a whole and drives prices down.
Update 6/17/2021: Two more Ohio cultivators came out to publicly support home grow this week. Akron’s Klutch Cannabis made the statement below:
And Dayton, Ohio’s Certified Cultivators was the latest to join the cultivators who support home grow:
Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, says it’s time for everyone, including cultivators, to support patients’ right to home growing of cannabis. “From our perspective, it’s really hard to see any real reason—other than individual and corporate greed—to be against home cultivation at this point.”
House Bill 210 Would Legalize Home Growing of Cannabis in Ohio
Ohio advocates and legislators have put forth various cannabis home-growing initiatives through the years. The latest initiative, House Bill 210 was introduced in March 2021 by Ohio Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland), and Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-Cincinnati). If passed, the bill would:
- legalize possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana
- allow cultivation of up to 12 plants
- authorize people with prior convictions to not report those offenses
- let people convicted of marijuana offenses apply to have the convictions expunged from their criminal records
Pricilla Lovine Harris, Lobbying Director of NORML Appalachia of Ohio, is helping lead the effort to move HB210 forward:
“So this bill includes decriminalization similar to what’s passed in the other 22 cities in the state of Ohio (the basic decrim portion of it). As well as a 12-plant home grow. It also includes automatic expungement, so for anybody that’s been in trouble for marijuana possession charges, we’re asking the state to automatically expunge some records to really bring it level for everybody in our state.”
Expanding Patients Rights
Harris stressed that home grow and decrim are part of NORML’s mission to help to solidify patient rights in the state when it comes to their cannabis use, especially for those who cannot get a medical card: “We’ve hit 3 million people protected in the state of Ohio. And there’s 11 and a half million of us. So we’re really trying to get the state to stand up and do what’s right for all of Ohio. And that’s just give us equal access, fairness, and equality across the board when it comes to marijuana.”
Harris suggests that patients who support home grow reach out to the criminal justice committee and their local reps at the statehouse and let them know that citizens in the state are supporting this. “The more people we can get involved, actually hands on, whether it’s just making a phone call or sending an email or working on the campaign team, we definitely need as many voices around the state as we can.”
Harris also noted that there will be a Lobby Day at the statehouse regarding HB210 that’s scheduled for July 22nd, 2021.
The Need for Further Support
This particular bill is not expected to move on for further consideration without bipartisan support, according to State Rep. Juanita O. Brent (D-Cleveland). Brent is a Democrat House member who has also sponsored medical marijuana reform legislation. Additional legislators from both parties would need to sign on as co-sponsors on the bill in order to schedule a hearing on the merits of the bill.
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