The Buckeye State Making Major Changes to its Medical Marijuana Control Program

July 20, 2023Legal Alerts

O-HIGH-O: The Buckeye State Making Major Changes to its Medical Marijuana Control Program

On July 3, 2023, Ohio’s biennial budget bill[1] was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine. In addition to major budget provisions, the bill also includes notable changes to Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program (“MMCP”), the state program that regulates and licenses cultivators, processors, testing laboratories, dispensaries and medical marijuana cardholders.

Beginning January 1, 2024, the MMCP will be under new management. The budget bill creates the Division of Marijuana Control (“DMC”), which will be headed by the new Superintendent of Marijuana Control, both of which fall under the Department of Commerce (“COM”). The DMC will assume oversight powers currently exercised by the COM and the Board of Pharmacy (“BOP”),[2] including rule-making authority and investigating alleged violations of medical marijuana law. All authority and duties currently vested in the COM and the BOP that are related to medical marijuana will be transferred to the DMC no later than December 31, 2023.

For those currently operating or seeking to operate under the MMCP, no changes in its licensing or process will occur until the transfer of oversight to the DMC, meaning all initial and renewal applicants should continue to coordinate their licensure matters with the BOP and the COM.

In a related development, on July 12, 2023, the State Medical Board of Ohio (“Board”) approved irritable bowel syndrome as a condition qualifying for treatment using medical marijuana. Previously, only chronic irritable bowel syndrome qualified, as such a condition is considered chronic pain and is eligible for treatment with medical marijuana. The addition of irritable bowel syndrome as a qualifying condition came on the same day the Board rejected autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder as qualifying conditions.

The impact of the Board’s decision may be further affected in the coming months, as Ohioans could have the chance to legalize recreational marijuana on the November 2023 ballot. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pushing to legalize the cultivation, sale/purchase and possession of recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 or older. The group submitted enough signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State to put the legalization issue directly to Ohio voters through an initiated statute ballot. If enough submitted signatures are verified and the ballot is approved by voters, the Ohio Revised Code would be modified and Ohio would become the 25th state[3] to legalize recreational marijuana.

Ohio’s medical marijuana laws are constantly changing, and staying up-to-date with these changes can be challenging. Dinsmore health care attorneys have extensive experience with Ohio’s MMCP and understand that compliance is the best way for cultivators, processors, laboratories and dispensers to protect their licenses. If you have questions about whether your activities comply with Ohio’s MMCP requirements or have general questions regarding Ohio’s medical marijuana programs, contact a Dinsmore health care attorney.

[1] A summary analysis of the budget bill is available through the Legislative Service Commission website. Updates relative to the Medical Marijuana Control Program begin on page 61.

[2] Under the current system, the BOP oversees licensing of medical marijuana patients, caregivers and dispensaries while the COM oversees licensing of cultivators, processors, and testing laboratories.

[3] The District of Columbia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands have also legalized recreational marijuana.