Ohio Senate Bill Aims to Expand Medical Marijuana Control Program

In December the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 261, potentially broadening Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program for the first time since implementation in 2018.

SB 261 would create the new Division of Marijuana Control (DMC), a division of the Department of Commerce, to oversee and administer the medical marijuana program. Currently, the Department of Commerce, Board of Pharmacy, and Medical Board are charged with heading the program. The DMC would also be charged with reviewing expansion requests for existing marijuana cultivation facilities, for which the bill authorizes maximum expansion from 25,000 to 75,000 square feet for level I cultivators and from 3,000 to 20,000 square feet for level II cultivators.

SB 261 would additionally require the DMC to try to achieve a ratio of at least one dispensary for every 1,000 patients, up to 300,000 patients, and then implement additional dispensaries on an as-needed basis. Along with current considerations of Ohio’s population, the number of patients, and the geographic distribution of dispensaries, the bill would require the DMC to consider projected patient growth when determining the number of dispensaries allowed.

Expanding sales privileges, the bill authorizes cultivators to sell medical marijuana directly to retail dispensaries and processors to acquire medical marijuana from other processors. Additionally, dispensaries would not need prior DMC approval to advertise on social media or other means, and would also be allowed to display products on advertisements and within the dispensary.

SB 261 would authorize six additional qualifying conditions for treatment, including migraines and arthritis. Additionally, and notwithstanding a patient’s specific diagnosis, SB 261 would also introduce new provisions allowing physicians to recommend medical marijuana for any condition which they determine it would alleviate symptoms, or otherwise benefit the patient.

The bill also makes changes to the governing of physician certification, the procedure for petitioning for additional methods of consumption, and the activities laboratories can engage in. Senate Bill 261 has currently passed the Senate and is expected to be taken up by the Ohio House of Representatives early this 2022. A comprehensive summary of the bill can be found here.

*Aaron Parry contributed to this post.