While the more controversial aspects of the debate to legalize marijuana in Ohio often grabs the headlines, it’s important to note the significant positive impact that an expanded program could have on our state’s existing medical cannabis patients. In this article, we’ll explore the potential benefits Issue 2 to legalize marijuana like alcohol could have on MMJ patients in Ohio.
Issue 2 to Legalize Marijuana: The Need
One argument against legalizing is that we already have a medical marijuana program. Politicians, advocates and business leaders have noted again and again that Ohio’s medical marijuana program (OMMCP) is not sustainable in a lot of ways. A few telling stats:
- Less than 200,000 active patients are registered in a state with more than 9 million adults.
- Ohio has issued licenses for 107 dispensaries. Comparatively, Michigan has over 1,000 dispensaries. Approximately 330 of those are still medical marijuana cardholder-only dispensary locations and over 660 that are now able to serve all adults.
- Prices have come down, but the program still remains out of reach for many. A recent OSU DEPC poll shows that despite a 31.1% drop in marijuana prices from July 2022 to July 2023 in Ohio dispensaries, marijuana products continue to be more affordable in the state of Michigan.
Polls show that Ohioans favor issue 2, but what about the current MMJ patients? Those who have medical marijuana cards may not be compelled to vote YES on Issue 2 unless they understand the benefits.
What should Ohio’s current MMJ Program patients expect if Issue 2 were to pass? Here are some of the potential benefits for Ohio MMJ users who retain their card after legalization:
The Lowest Prices Available
Medical marijuana is medication and therefore not subject to sales taxes. Purchasers would pay state and local sales taxes, which range from 5.75% to 8% and average 7.25% in Ohio, plus a 10% cannabis tax. While general consumers will pay more than they’d pay in Michigan, the proposed 10 percent tax would not apply to active medical marijuana patients.
When the Department of Marijuana Control takes over in January (regardless of the outcome of Issue 2), they may vote to lower or eliminate the state fee that patients or their caregivers pay to register with the Medical Marijuana Program. That fee was levied by the Board of Pharmacy. (Medical marijuana patients would still be subject to doctor’s evaluation and renewal fees.)
When the medical program is expanded and integrated with the recreational market, operators would see lower production and distribution costs. This, in turn, would be passed along to patients, resulting in more affordable cannabis products for everyone.
If other states are a guide, medical marijuana patients in Ohio would enjoy a separate selection, separate register or line where they could check out. There would also likely be medical marijuana card holder-only dispensaries where patients could go. (More on moratoriums later.)
As the writer of this article, I recall being a medical marijuana patient in Nevada when they voted in adult use in 2017. I was living on the Strip during this time. Dispensaries in the area prioritized MMJ users, putting them in the front of very long lines of curious local consumers and thousands of tourists. I really appreciated the “Vegas VIP”-style benefits for medical marijuana patients! I’d love to see Ohio dispensaries do the same.
If Issue 2 passes, Ohio would see a huge influx of traffic to dispensaries. Patients who rely on cannabis as daily medicine would still be able to access it easily, and ahead of those who are recreational consumers.
Diverse Product Selection
An expanded medical cannabis program would lead to a greater variety of cannabis products. While all the licenses are currently given out, new products and partnerships are being formed every day. Both Ohio-specific selections and notable brands you may be already familiar with from other markets will be more readily available in Ohio dispensaries if Issue 2 passes. Medical users who don’t always find consistent products in our current limited market will have much more to choose from.
Increased Patient Numbers = Reduced Stigma
Legalizing marijuana for all adults would lead to a surge in the number of patients entering the program. This would help reduce the stigma around medical cannabis and potentially increase awareness among those who might benefit from its use. With more patients, there may be increased pressure on our current healthcare system to better understand and integrate medical cannabis into patient care.
Under the proposed ballot measure, adults could grow their cannabis medicine at home. People who choose to grow would be limited to 12 plants per household. Growing your own cannabis can be a fun hobby that cultivates a greater respect and appreciation for the plant. It can also be a money-saver. The proposed law would allow citizens to obtain the seeds and clones to grow the best strains at home for treating their conditions.
The Fight Continues…
As we’ve previously mentioned on MedicateOH.com, this ballot measure is far from perfect.
- It doesn’t go far enough to rectify the damage done to those impacted by the War on Drugs.
- It doesn’t build a compassionate caregiver grower program or pave a way for micro-dispensaries or small business entrepreneurs to meaningfully participate.
- It doesn’t include protections for employment, housing, or other legal considerations that are important to cannabis users.
Further, local municipalities can still strike down adult use dispensaries even in communities that currently host medical marijuana dispensaries, erasing their potential positive impact. It’ll be important for advocates to watch both what their local governments do to participate in discussions about moratoriums.
At the state level, patients will want to keep an eye on the newly-formed Division of Marijuana Control and (of course) the state legislature. Because it’s an initiated statute, it is eligible for repeal. As we previously reported on MedicateOH.com, any action to subvert the will of the voters would be politically unwise, according to experts.
The Positive Impact of Legalizing Can’t Be Understated
Even though we have a medical program, the positive impact of legalizing marijuana for adult use–cannot be underestimated. An expanded medical cannabis program would lead to increased accessibility, a broader product selection, reduced costs, and more research opportunities. Moreover, it would bring a sense of legitimacy to medical cannabis, reducing legal concerns for patients, and ultimately improving their overall quality of life.
Ohioans may vote early now at their local ballot board offices, or at their polling stations on November 7th. Find more information on voting at https://www.ohiosos.gov/.