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Proposed Bill Would Expand Medical Cannabis Access in Ohio

Ohio’s Republican legislator wants to increase the number of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana.

Steve Huffman, a state senator in the Buckeye State, introduced a bill on Tuesday that his office said would make “significant improvements to the medical marijuana program in Ohio.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 261, would “expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana to include: autism spectrum disorder, arthritis, migraines, terminal illness and treatment of any other medical condition determined by a licensed physician,” according to the press release from Huffman’s office.

Ohio’s current medical cannabis law allows physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with the following qualifying conditions: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, Spasticity, spinal cord disease or injury, terminal illness, Tourette syndrome, traumatic brain injury and ulcerative colitis.

Additionally, Huffman’s bill would allow “for medical marijuana to be processed and dispensed in additional forms so that a patient can be treated through a variety of methods,” and would move primary oversight of the medical marijuana control program to the Department of Commerce “in an effort to streamline the process for businesses.”

Access to the Ohio Regulation

Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is currently regulated by both the Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Commerce. House Bill 523 was the first to put it into force. Although it went into effect on September 8, 2016, it wasn’t until January 16, 2019, that the state opened licensed dispensaries. 

The legislation also “expands opportunities for level I and II cultivators and permits additional retail dispensaries to open, based on patient need and market demand,” and includes “an equity study examining how the state can expand and make improvements to the medical marijuana program.”

As a practicing physician in the state who wrote Ohio’s medical marijuana law in 2016, Huffman said that his hope is that “this business friendly bill will create greater access for patients at a lower cost.”

“As a medical doctor and a State Senator, I am committed to the quality of life of the people I serve,” Huffman said in the press release. “The provisions in this bill are about improving the treatment options for patients.”

Huffman’s reform effort comes at a time when other activists and lawmakers in the Buckeye State have shifted their attention to outright legalization. In September, Ohio regulators signed off on a group’s plans to circulate petitions in order to get a legalization proposal placed before state legislators. 

After receiving the green light from the state’s ballot board, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) began its efforts to collect around 133,000 signatures. 

If they succeed, then the legislation will take the proposal. The Cincinnati Enquirer, if “the Legislature doesn’t pass or passes an amended version of the bill, supporters can collect another 132,887 signatures to put the proposal before voters, likely in November 2022.”

The Ohio House of Representatives also introduced last month a bill that would allow adults 21 years and over to possess, buy and grow cannabis. According to Spectrum News, would “impose a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana with the money going to fight drug addiction and illegal drug trafficking,” and “also allow Ohioans who went to prison for pot-related crimes to have their records expunged.”

There have also been significant changes to the state’s medical marijuana law. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy approved more than doubling the number of state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries last month.