May 17, 2023 | Ohio Law
Ohio has some of the most contradictory and confusing cannabis laws in the nation. The state allows medical marijuana but restricts non-medical/recreational use and permits vaporization but not combustion of THC. In addition, the state still criminalizes possession by people without medical cards but does not impose criminal penalties for small amounts.
As a result of this confusion, marijuana users can commit a crime in Ohio without knowing that their actions violate criminal laws. Even police officers can become confused and threaten marijuana users with prosecution for legal actions.
Overview of Cannabis Regulations in Ohio
Cannabis has two regulatory structures in Ohio. One structure applies to medical marijuana users, and the other applies to everyone else.
Medical Marijuana Users
Patients with certain conditions can register to use medical marijuana. Ohio does not set a minimum age for registration, but patients under 18 must have a caregiver apply on their behalf.
The conditions patients must have to qualify include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
- Crohn’s disease
- Hepatitis C
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic or intractable pain
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sickle cell anemia
- Spinal cord injury
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Traumatic brain injury
- Ulcerative colitis
To be approved for medical marijuana, you must see a doctor who has a certificate that allows them to recommend it for treatment. The physician submits a recommendation on your behalf, and the State Board of Pharmacy adds you to the registry.
Once on the registry, the police cannot arrest you for:
- Buying medical marijuana products from a licensed dispensary
- Possessing up to a 45-day supply of medical marijuana
- Using medical marijuana by ingestion, vaporization, or transdermal patch
The most common marijuana violation happens when a registered patient smokes marijuana. Medical use does not permit combustion. If you smoke medical marijuana, you risk arrest and prosecution.
Non-Medical Marijuana Users
Ohio considers marijuana a controlled substance for everyone who is not a registered patient. All the drug crimes in Ohio’s statutes that apply to hard drugs like methamphetamine and heroin also apply to cannabis.
You cannot legally purchase, possess, or use marijuana in Ohio without registering as a patient. The state had adjusted the penalties for possession so that possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana is treated as a minor misdemeanor with no jail time or criminal record. But possession of anything more than 100 grams could land you in jail or prison.
This does not, however, mean that a marijuana arrest will always lead to a conviction.
Some possible marijuana defenses include:
- You are a registered patient
- The marijuana found near you did not belong to you
- The police found marijuana in an illegal search
Convictions for possession or trafficking depend on the amount of marijuana you have.
Ohio Laws that Cover Both Types of Users
Some laws cover both medical patients and those who use marijuana recreationally. In other words, you cannot raise a marijuana defense to these charges on the grounds that you are a registered patient.
Driving while intoxicated by marijuana is illegal in Ohio. This is true regardless of your registered patient status.
Growing Marijuana Plants
No one in Ohio is permitted to grow marijuana plants. The only exception to this rule is the licensed growers that supply the dispensaries.
No one, including registered patients, can bring marijuana into Ohio from another state. Registered patients can only buy marijuana from an Ohio dispensary.
Growing on Federal Property
Possession of marijuana is prohibited on federal property, such as military bases, national parks, and national historic sites. Being caught with marijuana on one of these sites constitutes a federal crime.
The Future of Cannabis Laws in Ohio
State policies toward cannabis are continuously evolving, and ballot measures and legislation to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use come up every few years. But for now, cannabis remains an illegal drug for most Ohio residents.
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