Cannabis in Ohio

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Cannabis in Ohio is legal for medical use and illegal for recreational use. Since 1975 possession of up to 100 grams (3+12 oz) has been decriminalized, with several of the state's major cities having enacted further reforms. Medical use was legalized in 2016 through a bill passed by the state legislature.

Decriminalization (1975)[edit]

On August 22, 1975, Republican governor James Rhodes signed a bill decriminalizing cannabis, making Ohio the sixth state to do so.[1]

Under Ohio law, the possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana is a "minor misdemeanor" which carries a maximum fine of $150. Possession of more than 100 grams but less than 200 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to thirty days in jail and a $250 fine.[2][3]

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports report that in 2013, 17,000 arrests for marijuana possession were made in Ohio.[3] A 2013 report by the ACLU found that in Ohio, African Americans were 4.1 times more likely than Caucasians to be arrested for marijuana possession.[4]

Issue 3: Failed legalization proposal (2015)[edit]

In 2015, a ballot measure to legalize recreational use of cannabis in Ohio was defeated at the polls.[5] The measure, known as Issue 3, would have (a) legalized the use and sale of cannabis by persons age 21 and older; (b) allowed the commercial-scale cultivation of cannabis, but only at ten pre-designated sites chosen by the measure's sponsors; (c) allowed persons age 21 and older to possess of up to 1 ounce (28 g) of commercially-purchased cannabis and up to 8 ounces (230 g) of home-cultivated cannabis; and (d) allowed home cultivation of up to four flowering cannabis plants for Ohioans who held a $50 license.[3] The initiative was sponsored by a group of investors that included boy band singer Nick Lachey, NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, NFL defensive end Frostee Rucker, and fashion designer Nanette Lepore.[6]

Support for Issue 3 was weaker than overall support for legalization, as the measure was criticized for its plan to create a monopoly of cannabis producers.[5] The initiative failed to receive the endorsement of the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project, and received only a "tepid endorsement" from NORML. Issue 3 was defeated by a 65–35 margin on election day.[7]

Legalization of medical cannabis (2016)[edit]

In June 2016, Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 523 to legalize the medical use of cannabis in Ohio. The bill, sponsored by state Representative Stephen Huffman, was approved by an 18-15 vote in the state Senate and by a 67-29 vote in the state House.[8]

The bill set up a rulemaking process under which a "state-run or licensed system of growing facilities, testing labs, physician certification, patient registration, processors, and retail dispensaries" was established.[8][9] The system was required to be fully operational by September 2018, with the Ohio Department of Commerce to make rules for cultivators by May 6, 2017, to issue rules and regulations for cultivators, and the remainder of rules to be promulgated by October 2017.[10] In the interim, patients with one of 21 qualifying conditions were permitted to go to Michigan or another state with legalized medical cannabis, legally acquire cannabis there, and bring it back to Ohio for use in accordance with Ohio law.[8]

The twenty-one qualifying conditions are: AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Crohn's disease, epilepsy (or other seizure disorder), fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, "pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable," Parkinson's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette's syndrome, traumatic brain injury, ulcerative colitis, and "any other disease or condition added by the state medical board."[11]

Cultivation of cannabis and ingestion by way of smoking are prohibited under the law, which permits use only in edible, oil, vapor, patch, tincture, or plant matter form.[8] The first licensed sales of medical cannabis occurred on January 16, 2019.[12]

"Smoke a joint, lose your license" repealed (2016)[edit]

Senate Bill 204 was signed into law by Governor Kasich on June 13, 2016.[13] It repealed a requirement in state law that possession of cannabis or any other illegal drug be punished with a mandatory six month driver's license suspension (instead, the bill made the suspensions optional).[14][15] The policy was originally enacted in the early 1990s in response to the passage of the Solomon–Lautenberg amendment at the federal level.[16] Senate Bill 204 was sponsored by Republican State Senator Bill Seitz,[17] passing with only two opposing votes in the House and unanimously in the Senate.[18]

Municipal reforms[edit]

In September 2015, Toledo residents voted 70%–30% to depenalize misdemeanor cannabis offenses,[19] with no fines and no jail time for: possession or cultivation of under 200 grams, possession of hashish under 10 grams, possession of paraphernalia, and gifts of under 20 grams. Some provisions of the ordinance were later struck down in court, however.[20]

In November 2018, Dayton residents voted 73%–27% to approve an advisory referendum urging city leaders to decriminalize cannabis.[21] City commissioners then voted unanimously in January to eliminate all penalties for possession of up to 100 grams.[22]

In June 2019, Cincinnati City Council voted 5–3 to eliminate all penalties for possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis except in cases of public use.[23][24]

In July 2019, Columbus City Council voted unanimously to reduce the penalty to a $10 fine for possession of up to 100 grams and a $25 fine for between 100 and 200 grams. Possession of paraphernalia was also reduced to a $10 fine.[25]

In January 2020, Cleveland City Council voted 15–2 to eliminate penalties for possession of up to 200 grams of cannabis.[26][27]

Other jurisdictions in Ohio that have approved decriminalization ordinances include: Bellaire (2016),[28] Logan (2016),[28] Newark (2016),[28] Roseville (2016),[28] Athens (2017),[28] Fremont (2018),[29] Norwood (2018),[29] Oregon (2018),[29] Windham (2018),[29] Bremen (2019),[30] Nelsonville (2019),[30] Northwood (2019),[30] Plymouth (2020),[31] Adena (2020),[32] Glouster (2020),[32] Jacksonville (2020),[32] and Trimble (2020).[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anderson, Patrick (February 27, 1981). High In America: The True Story Behind NORML And The Politics Of Marijuana. The Viking Press. ISBN 978-0670119905.
  2. ^ "Ohio Laws & Penalties". Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Jackie Borchardt, Ohio law enforcement officials say marijuana convictions aren't a priority, Cleveland Plain Dealer (September 17, 2015).
  4. ^ The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests (June 2013), American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, pp. 58, 170.
  5. ^ a b Anne Saker (November 4, 2015). "6 reasons marijuana legalization failed in Ohio". Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved November 10, 2016 – via USA Today.
  6. ^ Contrera, Jessica (October 30, 2015). "The Ohio marijuana vote that could make Nick Lachey a weed kingpin. Yes, that Nick Lachey". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  7. ^ "Why Did Ohio's Marijuana-Legalization Amendment Fail?". The Atlantic. November 3, 2015. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d Jim Provance (June 8, 2016). "Gov. Kasich signs medical marijuana law". Toledo Blade.
  9. ^ Alan Johnson, Ohio's medical marijuana law goes in effect Thursday, but no pot for two years, Columbus Dispatch (September 6, 2016).
  10. ^ Jackie Borchardt, Small businesses prepare for Ohio medical marijuana market months before regulations announced, Cleveland Plain Dealer (July 7, 2016).
  11. ^ Tom Knox, Here are the conditions that qualify for medical marijuana in Ohio, Columbus Business First (June 16, 2016).
  12. ^ Borchardt, Jackie; Balmert, Jessie (January 16, 2019). "'No longer waiting for relief': Medical marijuana sales begin in Ohio". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  13. ^ "Law lets Ohioans with drug offense convictions keep license". The Washington Times. Associated Press. June 15, 2016. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  14. ^ Rodzinka, Paul (September 13, 2016). "License suspensions no longer required for some drug charges". WDTN. Associated Press. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  15. ^ Aiken, Joshua (December 12, 2016), Reinstating Common Sense: How driver's license suspensions for drug offenses unrelated to driving are falling out of favor, Prison Policy Initiative, retrieved September 22, 2020
  16. ^ Siegel, Jim (August 24, 2015). "Could Ohioans with drug convictions soon keep their driver's licenses?". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  17. ^ Borchardt, Jackie (April 12, 2016). "Bill allowing Ohioans with drug convictions to keep licenses clears Ohio Senate". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  18. ^ "Ohio: Governor Signs Bill Amending Driver's License Suspension Policy For Drug Offenders" (Press release). NORML. July 26, 2016. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016.
  19. ^ "City of Toledo Marijuana Decriminalization "Sensible Marijuana Ordinance" Initiative, Issue 1 (September 2015)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  20. ^ Feehan, Jennifer (February 13, 2016). "Judge: Portions of city's new marijuana law unconstitutional". The Blade. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  21. ^ Frolik, Cornelius (November 7, 2018). "Nearly 75 percent of Dayton voters want pot decriminalized". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  22. ^ Frolik, Cornelius (January 9, 2019). "Dayton would put recreational marijuana on ballot if it had the power, Mayor Whaley says". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  23. ^ Horn, Dan; Anderson, Maia (June 12, 2019). "Cincinnati City Council votes to allow marijuana possession up to 100 grams". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  24. ^ Jordan, Felicia (June 13, 2019). "Everything you need to know about Cincinnati's new marijuana ordinance". WCPO. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  25. ^ Bush, Bill (July 22, 2019). "Columbus City Council votes unanimously to reduce penalties for marijuana possession". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  26. ^ Higgs, Robert (January 27, 2020). "Cleveland City Council approves eliminating fines, jail time and criminal records for low level marijuana possession". Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  27. ^ Higgs, Robert (January 29, 2020). "Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson signs legislation to eliminate fines, jail time and court records for low-level marijuana possession". Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  28. ^ a b c d e "Ohio Local Decriminalization". NORML. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  29. ^ a b c d Jaeger, Kyle (November 6, 2018). "Five Ohio Cities Decriminalize Marijuana". Marijuana Moment. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  30. ^ a b c Jaeger, Kyle (November 6, 2019). "Three More Ohio Cities Approve Marijuana Decriminalization Measures, But Three Others Are Defeated". Marijuana Moment. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  31. ^ Wichers, Kryssi (July 28, 2020). "Marijuana Decriminalization Passes in Plymouth" (Press release). Plymouth, OH: Libertarian Party of Ohio.
  32. ^ a b c d Jaeger, Kyle (November 4, 2020). "Four More Ohio Cities Approve Marijuana Decriminalization Measures". Marijuana Moment. Retrieved November 27, 2020.