Ohio has been a leader in medical marijuana legalization. The state legalized the drug for medicinal purposes in 2000, and now it’s expanding its use to recreational use. This article will tell you about the history of marijuana legalization in Ohio, where you can buy it today, how much it costs, and what you need to know before buying.
In November 2008, voters in Florida passed Amendment 16, making their state the 45th to legalize cannabis possession for personal consumption. However, while many states have decriminalized or even fully legalized the sale of cannabis products (such as Colorado), only one — Ohio — has gone with full-fledged legalization of both cultivation and purchase.
This is primarily due to the efforts of former U.S. Representative Anthony H. “Tony” Williams Jr., who coauthored legislation on medical marijuana legalization in 1998. Since then, he’s served as executive director of the nonprofit organization Responsible Ohioans for Medical Marijuana Inc., which led the charge in legalizing the production of cannabis for medicinal use in the state [sources: National Organization For Reform Of Marijuana Policy].
Since Ohio was already ahead of the curve when it came to implementing laws regulating the medicinal aspects of cannabis, it makes sense that lawmakers would be quick to move forward with enacting similar rules for recreational users.
As of October 2010, there are more than 100,000 registered patients in the state, each receiving an identification card from the Department of Public Health that allows them access to low-THC strains grown by licensed growers.
On April 1, 2011, those patient cards will no longer allow access to only medicinal marijuana. The cards will also serve as proof of residence in Ohio, so residents may grow up to 18 plants per house and possess eight ounces of dried flower and four ounces of concentrate at any given time.
Residents must register annually with the state to keep their dispensary cards valid. In addition, patients over age 21 will not face penalties under existing alcohol law if caught smoking pot instead of consuming it through edible forms such as brownies or cookies. And starting next year, anyone over 18 charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will receive a trial diversion program rather than being arrested.
If these changes sound like something coming out of Amsterdam, don’t worry! They’re modeled after another local company called Alternative Therapies Group, which operates dispensaries in several other cities around the country. But why does Ohio lead the nation in cannabis legalization? Read on to find out.
Cannabis Cultivation Laws
Before getting into specifics regarding the legalities surrounding cannabis in Ohio, let’s look at some broader issues surrounding state-level cannabis legalization. First, although the federal government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, most experts believe that it should be reclassified since marijuana is less harmful than other substances deemed illegal, such as cocaine and heroin.
The United States is home to roughly 400 million people living across 50 different states. While many see the legalization of marijuana between individual states and Congress, others feel that local governments shouldn’t be allowed to implement stricter policies toward cannabis because of the potential adverse effects on social programs such as public health care and education.
Many argue that allowing states greater freedom to decide their approach to legalization could help reduce the number of arrests and convictions for non-violent crimes related to marijuana.
But advocates say that keeping certain things in place helps ensure that legalization doesn’t result in increased abuse among young children and teens, especially considering that current trends indicate that our youngest generations are increasingly interested in experimenting with alternative medicines.
One of the biggest arguments against allowing states to make decisions concerning cannabis regulation is based on the idea of federalism. Under federalist principles, power rests primarily with national leaders elected by citizens and overseen by independent courts.
These systems work best when states maintain autonomy but aren’t overly influenced by outside forces. Critics argue that allowing states to determine their paths toward legalization removes this concept and gives too much power to federal officials.
However, proponents of statewide legalization point to recent examples of states making their own choices without interference from higher powers. For example, Alaska became the first state to pass ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana sales beginning in July 2009, despite strong opposition from the Bush administration.
Other states, including California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington State, have passed measures legalizing marijuana for medicinal or recreational uses. On August 8, 2012, Oregonians will vote whether to approve a measure legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
If successful, Oregon would join Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia as the fourth state to legalize weed completely. After spending millions of dollars fighting the initiative, supporters hope they can avoid high taxes imposed by previous bans by taking control of the issue themselves.
So how do you get your hands on medicinal marijuana in Ohio? Find out on the following page.
Recreational Cannabis Buyer Requirements
Now that we’ve looked at the bigger picture surrounding cannabis legalization in Ohio let’s talk about specific regulations that apply to residents looking to buy marijuana legally. First, unlike Alaska, Hawaii, and Vermont, Ohio isn’t yet ready to sell retail marijuana directly to consumers. Instead, all purchases go through licensed businesses known as collective groups.
A collaborative group consists of three or more qualified individuals who meet together to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes. Each member receives shares in return for growing the crop.
While medical marijuana remains available for free distribution through pharmacies, qualifying patients won’t need prescriptions anymore once the new law exists. To obtain an ID card, applicants must prove that they suffer from one of 22 conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, or Alzheimer’s.
Qualifying patients can renew their IDs every five years by submitting updated documentation. Once issued, the ID card shows proof of residency and eligibility. In addition, dispensaries within 25 miles of the applicant’s primary address cannot turn down someone who qualifies for an ID card.
The cannabis permitted for personal consumption is limited to eight ounces of dried flower and 4 ounces of concentrates. Concentrates include hashish oil, shatter, budder and rosin. In addition, growers must submit annual reports detailing the yield produced during the harvest season.
Members pay $25 per month for a membership fee and share part of their crops with fellow members. Collectives are typically 10 to 20 people, although larger collectives are allowed. Some large collectives in Cleveland have reached upwards of 70 participants.
Hopefully, with all this information, you feel confident enough to head straight to the nearest dispensary or grow operation to pick up some herbs. Or maybe you’d prefer to try out the services of a consultant.
Licensed professionals cultivating cannabis for medicinal purposes have become popular alternatives to collectives. Consultants offer assistance from helping prospective buyers choose ideal strains best suited for particular ailments to providing professional advice on maximizing yields. Most consultants require payment upfront for consultations and product samples, however.
For more detailed information on purchasing marijuana in Ohio, check out the links on the following page.
According to estimates cited by Forbes magazine, medical marijuana generates nearly $1 billion in revenue for Ohio alone. In addition, with an estimated population of 19.8 million, Ohio produces almost $19.8 million worth of taxable cannabis products each year.
That cash flow will attract plenty of investors eager to jumpstart an entire industry. Just wait until the inevitable influx of tourists visiting the area hits town. It wouldn’t hurt to start stocking up on supplies now, though — prices could rise dramatically come tax time next summer.