This Cannabis Bill package that Juanita Brent introduced surrounds two bills, one to decriminalize and expunge criminal records to stop the impending prosecution of cannabis-based offenses, and the other is to accept Autism Spectrum Disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana treatment in Ohio.

Representative Brent developed the proposals after meeting with and hearing the needs of Ohio constituents. 

Friday, May 15th, COLUMBUS — State Representative Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland-District 12), introduced a ‘Cannabis Bill Package’ to the Ohio 133rd General Assembly.

Autism Spectrum Disorder as a Qualifying Condition for Medical Cannabis Treatment 

(“To amend section 3796.01 of the Revised Code to authorize the use of medical marijuana for autism spectrum disorder.”, per the proposed legislation. Copies of legislation can be obtained by emailing Rep Brent’s office at rep12@ohiohouse.gov)

“Ohio families should not have to move to one of the seventeen other states who already permit autism as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis to comfort their child,” Brent stated in her press release.

Legislation to add Autism to the list of qualified conditions for MMJ treatment in the Buckeye state includes a wealthy amount of cosponsors in support of legislation from the Ohio House, including State Representatives Phil Robinson, Bill Seitz, Erica Crawley, Michael Sheehy, Lisa Sobecki, George Lang, Michael O’brien, and Mary Lightbody.

This new approach comes forth after unwavering annual attempts to incept the condition via a research- based petition has been brought forth to the Ohio State Medical Board by the Autism Alliance of Ohio, since early 2017. 

Last year, medical evidence and scientific  research provided to the state was endorsed by the Ohio State Medical Board’s expert panel of medical professionals, but ultimately was denied. To that end, a legal initiative was then brought forth. 

“Parents who have children with autism are seeking additional treatment options,” she stated.

Cannabis Decriminalization Bill Introduced

The second bill in Brent’s legislative package would repeal criminal prohibitions for recreational possession and trafficking of cannabis. This legislation would omit sentencing for cannabis possession and also expunge cannabis possession offenses from one’s criminal record. This initiative does not necessarily fully legalize marijuana in Ohio, but allows immunity for legal discrimination against the plant in its entirety. 

“Any person who, prior to the effective date of this amendment, was convicted of or pleaded guilty to and was sentenced for a cannabis possession offense based on a violation of section 2925.11, 2925.14, or 2925.141 of the Revised Code as those sections existed prior to the effective date of this amendment, and who is currently serving a jail term or term of imprisonment for that offense, may file an application to have the offender’s sentence vacated under this section. The person may file the application at any time on or after the effective date of this amendment.”

– Brent’s Cannabis Bill

The objective of the new proposed bill is to expunge past criminal records and end prosecution of cannabis-based drug offenses in Ohio.

“It is about time we stop criminalizing a plant (Cannabis),” Brent stated. “Our police should be focusing their time and resources on more serious crimes. This is also an opportunity to strengthen our workforce with more tax-paying contributors, instead of keeping people from a job because of a background check.”

Citizen Ballot Measures For Legalization Persist Despite COVID-19 

Before the pandemic, a campaign to potentially legalize recreational marijuana “like alcohol” in Ohio, was obtaining signatures for the proposed ballot initiative. The campaign has since been hindered by the spontaneous outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, which in turn. In turn, has made collecting and obtaining valid signatures for the petition-based initiative increasingly more difficult.

This proposal surrounds the legalization for adults, age 21 years and older, to be permitted to grow up to six flowering plants and have up to one ounce of marijuana on their person. It would also generate a systematic program, under which the Ohio Department of Commerce would regulate cultivation, processing, and testing facilities as well as retail establishments, per the state.

On March 10th, Attorney General Dave Yost’s office ultimately rejected the proposed language for the potential amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would accept these alterations to Ohio’s existing cannabis laws, via an office press release.

As advocates pushed the pursuit to amend Ohio’s constitutional law,Tom Haren, the spokesman for the ballot measure to regulate marijuana like alcohol wasn’t happy. “A number of people have had doubts for a while about this state’s willingness and interest in providing a program that works for Ohio,” Haren said.

A New Way Forward 

While Ohio state constituents and elected legislative officials may have contrasting approaches to bring forth a more progressive, cannabis-friendly agenda to the state — they ultimately agree upon the collective idea that change, overall, is needed.

These proposals shed light on the wide array of perspectives brought forth by both citizens and state leaders, alike.

The two bills introduced to the Ohio House of Representatives by Rep. Brent are currently awaiting committee assignments and bill numbers.

As for the ballot-based campaign initiative, if enough signatures are not obtained, Ohio voters may elect to introduce a constitutional amendment — which could potentially make recreational marijuana legal statewide in the Buckeye State. 

These developments are a projection of Ohioans taking charge in the future of Ohio’s most recent and prominent attempts to increase awareness surrounding both medical and recreational state law. 

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