Ohio’s recreational cannabis initiative has been delayed due to coronavirus social distancing measures, and the petition’s language is also undergoing revisions at the request of Ohio’s Attorney General. Despite these setbacks, the movement is not dead in the Buckeye State.
During the election season, petitioners rely on interaction with the public to inform voters on ballot initiatives and to collect signatures. Without that in-person mechanism, all ballot initiatives and petitions could be delayed indefinitely. Tom Haren, Spokesperson for Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has indicated the group is taking social distancing measures seriously during the pandemic.
“We made the decision early on that the health of our volunteers, supporters, medical marijuana patients, and the general public would be our primary concern,” he said. “As Ohio begins the process of re-opening, we are evaluating our options and hope to have more to share soon.”
Being unable to exercise democracy through legislation and proposed ballot measures has First Amendment implications, and addressing this in court has already been problematic. Earlier this month, a judge in Ohio’s Franklin County said he lacked the ability to make alterations to the state’s constitution that would allow fewer signatures to be collected during the pandemic. Freda Levenson of ACLU Ohio, who is representing Ohioans for Fair and Secure Elections, has concerns about what this could mean for election laws.
“The First Amendment says any infringement on speech, even if it’s temporary or brief is a violation of your rights,” she said. “They can’t say ‘you can talk later.’ You have a right to say it.”
But coronavirus is only part of the petition’s setbacks. In March, the Attorney General of Ohio informed the petitioners by letter that proposed legislation, which would amend the state’s constitution in order to legalize recreational cannabis, was insufficient and required additional information.
“Upon reviewing Section (A) of the proposed amendment and comparing it to the summary language, I am unable to certify the summary as a fair and truthful representation of the proposed amendment,” wrote Attorney General Dave Yost in the rejection letter. “Section (A) of the proposed amendment lists several findings and declarations that the amendment proposes to be made by ‘the people of the state of Ohio.’ The summary makes no mention of these findings and declarations. Thus, it completely fails to inform a potential signer that the amendment elevates these ‘findings and declarations’ to a constitutional standard.”
Haren has said that the group will continue to revise their proposed amendment based on the Attorney General’s notes.
Ohio is one of several states who have a strict medical cannabis program that is largely unsuccessful due to overregulation and lack of available products. Of patients who are qualified and enrolled in the program, thirty percent have not made a single purchase.
“If you’re a patient in Ohio, it’s hard to participate in Ohio’s medical marijuana program,” Haren said. “We were promised a program that worked.” Ohio’s state medical cannabis business association is currently not supporting the bill.
Up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational use would be allowed under the proposed legislation, along with up to six plants for personal use. The state would establish a regulatory body that would oversee production, quality control, licensing, and retail distribution of cannabis along with a proposed sales tax structure, 25% of which would go towards social equity programs.
Image by David Mark from Pixabay
The first medical cannabis product manufacturing license was just awarded in Ohio, giving patients in the program a reason to celebrate.
Located in East Fultonham in Muskingum County, Grow Ohio is officially the first producer to be awarded a license to manufacture popular cannabis products like edibles, tinctures, transdermal patches, and topical salves, creams, or lotions in the Buckeye State.
“It’ll open up the choices patients have available to them and they can purchase their medical marijuana to treat their condition,” said Executive Vice President of Grow Ohio Justin Hunt. “We hired the right people, we have the right formulas and we are just excited to make a broader market available that have registered in Ohio.”
Grow Ohio manufactures its products in a 60,000 square-foot-building near Zanesville, which is just about 55 miles east of Columbus. In the same facility, a 25,000 square foot space is dedicated to cultivating cannabis plants. Grow Ohio received approval to grow the plants in September of last year.
While the medical cannabis retail program has been active in Ohio since January of this year, the only product available for purchase so far has been dried cannabis flower.
The first day that Ohio medical cannabis patients were granted safe, reliable access to lab-tested medication via dispensaries, they collectively spent more than $75,0000 on nearly nine pounds of flower. Only four retail locations were open for business on the first day that sales began.
Approximately 5,500 patients have purchased medical cannabis from a dispensary since the first day of legal retail sales began on January 16, 2019.
According to Grow Ohio representative Josh Febus, the first products the company plans to produce are syringes filled with edibles cannabis oil, flavored gummies, and tinctures. They expect to introduce cannabis oil capsules and topical creams to the market by May of this year.
One Form Is Not Enough
It is unfortunate, for many patients in Ohio, that the only product available to purchase from a dispensary is dried flower because it remains illegal to smoke or combust plant material in the state. Ohio medical cannabis patients are however permitted to vaporize dried cannabis flower, according to state law, but that is not an ideal method of administration for all patients.
Those who need to ingest their cannabis medication have to take an extra step before they can medicate. A patient would have to use the dried flower material that they buy from the dispensary to make cannabutter or a tincture at home. Since both of these processes take a good chunk of time to make at home, it is a lot of extra work for someone who just wants to medicate quickly for immediate symptom relief. For some patients suffering from severely debilitating conditions, that extra step may be impossible.
Growing at home remains illegal for Ohio medical cannabis patients.
Future Processing Licenses
There are 37 more manufacturing businesses waiting in the state that have already been issued provisional licenses. Once final approval is secured, each will receive a certificate of operation to be able to begin manufacturing cannabis products, according to Kerry Francis of the Ohio Commerce Department. A total of up to 40 processors may be licensed in the state of Ohio.
Ohio Medical Cannabis Program Update
The following are the statistics for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Program as of March 7, 2019:
- 19,395 Patients with verified recommendations have registered for the program.
- 973 Caregivers have registered for the program.
- 413 Physicians are certified to recommend medical cannabis to qualified patients.
- 9 Dispensaries are open for business.
- 1 Processor has received approval to begin manufacturing products.
- 3 Lab testing facilities have received approval to test products.
How to Get Medical Cannabis in Ohio
A qualified patient must follow three main steps to obtain medical cannabis in Ohio.
- Receive a recommendation for medical cannabis from a state-licensed physician.
- Pay the registration fee to get an official patient card.
- Find a dispensary and make a purchase.
Do you need to apply for a medical cannabis patient registration card in the Buckeye State? Click here to learn how to apply for a medical marijuana card in Ohio.
Which Conditions Qualify for Medical Cannabis in Ohio?
Currently, 22 conditions qualify for medical cannabis in Ohio:
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
Epilepsy or another seizure disorder
Inflammatory bowel disease
Positive status for HIV
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Sickle cell anemia
Spinal cord disease or injury
Traumatic brain injury
Five out of six Ohio cities that had local marijuana decriminalization measures on the ballot have passed the initiatives, including in the state’s sixth most populous city.
Decriminalization passed in Dayton, Fremont, Norwood, Oregon and Windham. Voters in Garrettsville rejected the local measure, though.
Currently, getting caught possessing up to 200 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor in Ohio, punishable by a $150 to $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail, depending on the exact amount. These measures won’t affect state law, but it will help protect cannabis consumers in municipalities that approve the initiatives through local ordinances.
Here’s the text of each measure.
PASSED—Dayton: “Shall the Dayton Revised Code of General Ordinances be amended to decriminalize specific misdemeanor marijuana and hashish offenses?”
PASSED—Fremont: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”
REJECTED—Garrettsville: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”
PASSED—Norwood: “Shall the proposed ordinance adding Section 513.15 Marijuana Laws and Penalties to the City of Norwood Municipal Code, which would lower the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law, be adopted?”
PASSED—Oregon: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”
PASSED—Windham: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”
Six other Ohio cities—Toledo, Logan, Roseville, Bellaire, Newark and Athens—have approved decriminalization initiatives over the past three years.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect new information about how each Ohio city voted on local marijuana measures.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Five Ohio Cities Decriminalize Marijuana
Next month, voters in seven states will get the chance to approve or reject a number of far-reaching marijuana proposals. But one thing many people don’t realize is that you don’t have to wait until November 6 to make your voice heard: many states allow for early or absentee voting, and people across the country are already voting on cannabis initiatives today, as you read this.
Before getting into the specifics, an important aside about voter registration deadlines: They’re coming up hot. You can check your state’s registration deadline here.
OK, back to early voting on cannabis. Marijuana Moment compiled a list of each major state and local marijuana-related initiative that will appear on ballots. They range widely—from proposals to fully legalize cannabis in Michigan to amending the definition of industrial hemp in Colorado—and some will only go before voters in specific cities or counties.
There’s a lot of information to review before heading to the polls, but fortunately, there’s still about a month to go.
But for those who are eager to make their votes count sooner rather than later, many places with cannabis questions provide ways to cast your ballot early via mail or in-person before Election Day.
Here’s when early or absentee voting starts in states where marijuana will be on the ballot:
A proposal to amend the definition of industrial hemp under the Colorado constitution.
Ballots handed out to voters who request them: October 5*
*A county clerk “must begin issuing mail ballots to any eligible elector who requests one in person at the county clerk’s office” by this date. Otherwise, mail ballots will be sent to voters between October 15 and 22.
A proposal to fully legalize marijuana for adult-use.
Absentee voting begins: County clerks begin sending out mail-in ballots* September 22
*Non-military Michigan voters must qualify for absentee voting. Individuals must either be over 60 years old, unable to vote without assistance, planning to be out of town on Election Day, in jail awaiting trial, have a conflicting religious event or have been appointed to work “as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.”
Three competing proposals to legalize medical cannabis.
Absentee voting begins: September 25*
*Missouri voters must qualify for absentee voting. Individuals must either be physically incapable to vote due to illness or disability, planning to be out of town on Election Day, in jail awaiting trial, have a conflicting religious event, have been appointed to work an election official or currently involved in a confidentiality program due to safety concerns.
A proposal to fully legalize marijuana for adult-use.
Absentee voting begins: September 27
Early voting begins: Counties may begin offering early voting as soon as October 22. Consult your county’s election office, as start dates vary.
Proposals in six municipalities across Ohio to locally decriminalize cannabis.
Early voting begins: October 10
Absentee voting begins: October 10
A proposal to legalize medical cannabis.
Absentee voting begins: For military and oversees residents, mail-in ballots will be sent out by September 22. Other mail-in ballots will be sent out by October 16. Absentee ballot applications must be submitted by October 30.
Early voting begins: October 23*
*Be sure to check your county’s early voting poll dates here.
Non-binding advisory questions in 16 counties asking voters to weigh in on medical or adult-use cannabis legalization.
Absentee voting: Requests for an absentee ballot must be submitted by November 1
Early voting begins: September 22*
*The bulk of Wisconsin municipalities allow for early voting starting September 22, but there’s no statewide timeline so check with your municipal clerk to confirm. The University of Wisconsin maintains a list of updated early voting dates here.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
The Marijuana Election Has Already Begun. No Need To Wait Until November 6 To Vote On Cannabis
Even if voters in a Cincinnati enclave approve a local marijuana depenalization measure this fall, the city’s police chief has promised to continue arresting and charging cannabis consumers with misdemeanors under state law, which will remain unchanged.
Norwood, Ohio is a city of about 20,000 people located entirely within the city limits of much-larger Cincinnati in Hamilton County.
On Monday, the Hamilton County Board of Elections announced a ballot measure that would eliminate all criminal penalties for possession of 200 grams or less of marijuana will appear on Norwood voters’ ballots in November after activists collected a sufficient number of signatures to qualify the measure.
Simple possession of marijuana in Ohio is currently a misdemeanor, punishable by a $150 fine. Possession of between 100 and 200 grams is a misdemeanor that carries penalties of no more than 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. The ballot initiative would remove all such fines and penalties under city code.
But even if Norwood voters approve the measure, Norwood police will continue to make marijuana arrests as before, police Chief William Kramer told the Cincinnati Enquirer, and charge offenders under the harsher state law.
“This [ballot initiative] deals with Norwood’s codified ordinance and doesn’t have anything to do with state law,” Kramer told the newspaper. “We really wouldn’t change how we do things. We would simply, from the very beginning, charge them under state code.”
Kramer’s intransigence comes despite a steady march towards relaxed marijuana laws in Ohio and across the country.
State lawmakers in Ohio legalized medical cannabis in 2016. Patients are due to access cannabis in retail dispensaries in the coming months. And activists are considering pursuing a statewide 2019 ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana statewide
And other police forces in cities in Ohio and across the country are taking a more relaxed stance towards marijuana possession.
According to NORML, more than 50 local governments in 12 states have either fully or partially decriminalized “minor cannabis possession offenses.”
This includes the following cities in Ohio: Athens, Bellaire, Logan, Newark, Roseville and Toledo. Of these, Toledo, at about 278,000 people, is by far the largest in the state.
Meanwhile, voters in additional Ohio cities like Fremont, Nelsonville and Oregon might have the chance to vote on cannabis depenalization measures in November as well.
However, state lawmakers as well as law enforcement elsewhere in the U.S. have found ways to scotch local plans to decriminalize marijuana possession and re-prioritize police practices.
Twelve out of the 61 police jurisdictions in Harris County, Texas—where police can refer marijuana offenders to a diversion program rather than the criminal justice system—have so far declined to participate, the Houston Chronicle reported.
And in Tennessee, where city councils in both Memphis and Nashville passed decriminalization laws, Republican state lawmakers responded with their own bill, signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, that repealed both local decriminalization measures.
Back in Norwood, a 2016 proposal to relax enforcement of marijuana crimes was rejected by the Board of Elections, after the agency’s chairman said that proponent Sensible Norwood’s proposal went too far in prohibiting police from referring marijuana offenders to state courts.
That led to this year’s slightly watered-down proposal—which, as Chief Kramer is demonstrating, may be too weak to be obeyed.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Ohio Police Plan To Ignore Marijuana Ballot Measure
Photo by niu niu on Unsplash