Ohio lawmakers quickly introduced Senate Bill 9 to revise medical marijuana law through Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) at the beginning of the 2023 legislative year after a somewhat similar bill to expand Ohio’s MMCP failed to pass in the Ohio House in 2022. If passed, SB 9 would be the first revision to the program since its implementation in 2018.
The bill contains a few eye-catching provisions. Level I cultivators that meet certain requirements will receive two dispensary licenses while Level II cultivators and stand-alone processors that meet specific requirements will receive one dispensary license as a means to achieve the bill’s defined ratio of at least one dispensary for every 1,000 patients. Stand-alone processors who meet certain eligibility criteria may apply for a new standalone processor cultivation license. Further, any medical marijuana license holder may advertise on any medium without receiving prior approval from the Division of Marijuana Control, including displaying products on advertisements and within a dispensary; however, advertisements or product labels cannot claim that medical cannabis can, or is intended to, cure diseases. Here are other key provisions of the bill by topic.
Oversight: SB 9 restructures the oversight of the MMCP by:
- Removing the Board of Pharmacy’s regulation of the MMCP and creating the Division of Marijuana Control (DMC), a division of the Ohio Department of Commerce.
- Adding another layer of administration by establishing the Medical Marijuana Oversight Commission, an independent commission within the DMC, composed of thirteen positions, each with specific qualifications and appointment methods, and tasked with developing and overseeing the DMC’s policies, procedures, regulations, licensing implementation, and enforcement of the MMCP.
DMC Duties: SB 9 tasks the DMC with several responsibilities, including:
- Overseeing and administering the MMCP, including patient and caregiver registration and licensure of cultivators, processors, dispensaries, and testing labs.
- Establishing training requirements for retail dispensary employees.
- Revoking a license if no certificate of operation is secured within 18 months after provisional licensure.
- Establishing a change of ownership application and approval process.
- Implementing additional dispensaries on an as-needed basis after the MMCP has 300,000 patients, considering anticipated growth in patient numbers and patient demand based on sales and market data.
- Establishing a foreign patient database system, which would allow non-Ohio residents with a valid non-Ohio driver’s license and a medical marijuana recommendation to register to purchase medical marijuana in Ohio, and dispensaries would have to verify registration in the system.
- Specifying the paraphernalia or other accessories that may be used in the administration of medical marijuana to a registered patient.
Cultivators: Important cultivator provisions under SB 9 include:
- Allowing DMC to approve cultivation space of 50,000 sq. ft. for Level I cultivators and 15,000 sq. ft. for Level II cultivators.
- Allowing cultivators to apply for expansion of cultivation space up to 100,000 sq. ft. for Level I cultivators and up to 20,000 sq. ft. for Level II cultivators.
- Permitting cultivators to obtain seeds or clones to cultivate from other cultivator licensees and legal, out-of-state cultivators.
- Permitting cultivators to deliver or sell medical marijuana to licensed cultivators, processors, or retail dispensaries.
- Allowing Level II cultivators to receive a processor license.
- Under the bill, processors may obtain medical marijuana from cultivators or processors.
Testing Labs: SB 9 permits testing labs to:
- Conduct research and development testing for cultivators and processors and retest products that fail testing or that fall outside of the typical product results, among other approved testing purposes. Plant material and processed products used for research and development testing may be sold to patients after all required testing is completed and the product passes the testing required for sale.
Dispensaries: Together with other dispensary-specific provisions, the bill:
- Specifies that dispensaries cannot sell medical marijuana unless the patient presents a valid identification card and a current, written recommendation by a physician.
- Bans the DMC from issuing a new retail dispensary license if such license will be used at a location within one mile of an existing retail dispensary.
- Prohibits any person from owning the greater of more than five dispensaries or more than 5% of the total number of dispensaries in Ohio, and prohibits any person from owning more than five dispensaries in certain geographical regions.
- Permits dispensaries to obtain medical marijuana from cultivators and other dispensaries under the same ownership.
- Requires that if a dispensary has a medical director, the person must be authorized to practice medicine in Ohio and be certified to recommend medical marijuana.
Patients: Among other provisions, SB 9:
- Adds six qualifying conditions for treatment, including migraines, arthritis, autism spectrum disorder, spasticity or chronic muscle spasms, hospice care or terminal illness, and opioid use disorder, and authorizes recommending physicians to recommend medical marijuana for any condition which the physician believes to be as debilitating to the patient as the other MMCP qualifying conditions.
- Increases the ninety-day supply of plant material that patients can legally possess from 8 ounces to 9 ounces.
- Expands consumption methods to include inhalation, transdermal administration, and oral administration while smoking or combustion would still be prohibited.
- Adds seven new medical marijuana forms that may be sold, including pills, capsules and suppositories, oral pouches, oral strips, oral or topical sprays, salves, lotions or similar items, and inhalers, and allows the DMC to approve other forms alone or in response to a patient’s petition.
The bill requires the Department of Administrative Services to conduct an equity assessment of the medical cannabis industry to determine whether remedial measures concerning minorities and women should be implemented.
Senate Bill 9 will now move through the Senate’s legislative process before the bill will be taken up by the House. There will likely be plenty of updates during the respective processes, given that the prior bill to revise the MMCP died in the House. A comprehensive summary of the bill can be accessed on the Ohio Senate website.
Aaron works across numerous highly-regulated industries, helping them comply with state and federal laws related to privacy and data security, cannabis, marketing, teleservices, and other consumer protection matters.