In 2016, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law House Bill 523, which legalized the use of medical marijuana for patients with qualifying conditions. The move was a significant milestone for the state as it marked a shift towards more progressive healthcare policies. However, the implementation of the system has faced several challenges and delays, leaving patients to grapple with high costs and limited access.
Ohio’s medical marijuana program is based on over a dozen qualifying conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients who have one or more of the qualifying conditions are eligible to apply for a medical marijuana card. These cards enable patients to purchase and possess medical cannabis in the form of oils, tinctures, plant material, edibles, lotions, creams, and patches.
However, smoking plant material is prohibited under Ohio law. Cannabis in this form may only be vaporized. The law also allows patients and their caregivers to have a supply of up to 90 days.
The system was meant to provide affordable access to medical cannabis for patients but has been plagued by high costs. The cost of medical cannabis manufactured by 33 cultivators remains too expensive for some of the more than 125,000 registered patients. This has forced some patients to travel to Michigan to get medical cannabis at lower prices.
Despite these challenges, Ohio’s medical marijuana program remains one of the most diverse in the country. Patients have access to a wide range of medical cannabis options like dry flower (for vaporized use only), tinctures, extracts and concentrates, topicals, and edibles.
To qualify for an Ohio medical marijuana card, a patient must be at least 18 years old and have one or more of the qualifying conditions. They must also prove that they are an Ohio resident by providing a valid state driver’s license or identification card. The patient must also pay a $50 annual card registration fee.
Becoming a caregiver in Ohio is also straightforward. The patient assistant must be at least 21 years old and able to prove their Ohio residency with a valid driver’s license or state identification card. The caregiver, who must be listed on the patient certification, must also pay a $50 annual card registration fee. Ohio caregivers can only care for two patients at a time per law.
Ohio has a tiered possession limit, allowing a certain amount of THC-infused cannabis products to a patient depending on the condition they have. A tier I medical cannabis cardholder can possess up to 8 ounces of THC that tests at 23% or less; and a tier II medical cannabis cardholder can have up to 5.3 ounces of THC that test above 23%, but not higher than 35%.
Certain types of products in Ohio are only allowed to have so much THC. While patches, lotions, creams, and additional topics cannot exceed 26-55 grams of THC, cannabis oil, tincture, capsules, and all other edibles cannot exceed 9.9 grams of THC. Up to 53.1 grams of THC is allowable specifically for oil that is to be vaporized.
Home cultivation is not permitted at this time in Ohio.
In conclusion, the legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio was a significant milestone for the state’s healthcare system. However, the program’s implementation has faced several challenges and delays that have left patients grappling with high costs and limited access. It is crucial that policymakers take steps to address these issues so that patients can access affordable medical cannabis that meets their needs.