Ohio Legislature Cultivating Medical Marijuana Access Expansion | Dinsmore & Shohl LLP

Ohio legislators are once again attempting to transform the state’s medical marijuana control program after a similar effort stalled out last year. Proponents of the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 9, seek to expand medical marijuana access to Ohioans and revamp the structure of the current program.

The proposal would establish the Division of Marijuana Control (“DMC”) under the Department of Commerce. The DMC’s responsibilities would include licensing cultivators, processors, retail dispensaries, and testing labs, as well as overseeing patient registration – duties that are currently handled by the Board of Pharmacy. Additionally, it creates the Medical Marijuana Oversight Commission as an independent body within the DMC. This would be comprised of health care professionals, law enforcement officers, and other appointed community members who would help develop policies, procedures, regulations, and licensing related to the medical marijuana control program. Under the proposed legislation, the Board of Pharmacy would only retain oversight and management of the drug database – the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (“OARRS”) – and the Medical Board would continue to regulate physician certificates to recommend. Notably, the bill does not expand recommendation authority to non-physician health care professionals.[1]

The bill would expand the “qualifying medical conditions” that allow a physician to recommend medical marijuana to patients to include autism spectrum disorder and opioid use disorder. Further, the bill would allow a physician to recommend medical marijuana for any condition that they determine is debilitating to their patient.[2] Advocates argue that the bill, if enacted, would help motivate Ohio patients to purchase their cannabis products in state, instead of crossing state lines to do so, which remains illegal under federal and state law. Further, the proposed legislation would allow for more patients to obtain relief by broadening acceptable bases for patients to obtain medical marijuana, as well as providing a more streamlined process for aspiring dispensaries to acquire licenses.

Simultaneously, the Ohio House of Representatives is considering Governor Mike DeWine’s related budget recommendations, including shifting the regulatory oversight of medical marijuana dispensaries entirely from the Board of Pharmacy to the Department of Commerce.[3] Similar to Senate Bill 9, the proposed budget would not alter the Medical Board’s current responsibilities.

The full text of Ohio Senate Bill 9 can be found on the Senate’s website, available here, and the full text of the Governor’s proposed budget can be found on the Office of Budget and Management’s website, available here. We will continue to provide updates as the bill and budget progress through the legislature.

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