Cannabis in Ohio

In the U.S. state of Ohio, cannabis is illegal for recreational use, but possession of up to 100 grams is decriminalized. Legislation to allow a regulated system of medical marijuana cultivation, sale, and possession was enacted in 2016, but the system will not come into effect until 2017.

Decriminalization (1975)

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]

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports report that in 2013, 17,000 arrests for marijuana possession were made in Ohio.[2] A 2013 report by the ACLU found that in Ohio, blacks were 4.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.[3]

Issue 3 (2015): unsuccessful legalization proposal

In 2015, Issue 3a ballot initiative to legalize cannabiswas defeated at the polls.[4] Issue 3 (a) would have legalized the sale and use of marijuana by persons aged 21 and older; (b) would have allowed the commercial-scale cultivation of marijuana, but only at ten pre-designated sites chosen by the measure's sponsors; (c) would have allowed persons aged 21 and older to possess of up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of commercially purchased marijuana and up to 8 ounces (224 grams) of home-cultivated marijuana; and (d) would have allowed home cultivation of up to four flowering marijuana plants for Ohioans who held a $50 license.[2] Support for the measure was weaker than overall support for legalization, as the measure was criticized for its plan to create a monopoly of cannabis producers.[4]

The measure failed to receive the endorsement of the major cannabis advocacy groups Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, and received only a "tepid endorsement" from NORML. The ballot initiative was defeated 65–35.[5]

Partial legalization of medical cannabis (2016)

In June 2016, Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 523, which permits the medical use of marijuana in some cases. The bill, sponsored by state Representative Stephen Huffman, was approved by an 18-15 vote in the state Senate and by an 67-29 vote in the state House.[6]

The bill sets 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" will be established; the process could take up to two years.[6][7] The statute "requires the system 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.[8] In the interim, however, "patients with one of 21 debilitating diseases or conditions contained in the law" are permitted under the law to go to Michigan or another state with legalized medical marijuana, legally acquire marijuana there, and bring it back to Ohio for use in accordance with Ohio law.[6]

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."[9]

Smoking and the home cultivation of marijuana remain prohibited under the law, which only permits marijuana in "edible, oil, vapor, patch, tincture, and plant matter form."[6]

Municipal decriminalization

In 2015, Toledo decriminalized possession of 200 grams or less, reducing it to a citation. In 2016, the cities of Bellaire, Logan, Newark and Roseville passed similar legislation.[10]


  1. Patrick Anderson (17 May 2015). High in America. Garrett County Press. pp. 144–. ISBN 978-1-939430-16-8.
  2. 1 2 3 Jackie Borchardt, Ohio law enforcement officials say marijuana convictions aren't a priority, Cleveland Plain Dealer (September 17, 2015).
  3. 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.
  4. 1 2 Anne Saker (2015-11-04). "6 reasons marijuana legalization failed in Ohio". Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 2016-11-10 via USA Today.
  5. "Why Did Ohio's Marijuana-Legalization Amendment Fail?". The Atlantic. 2015-11-03. Retrieved 2016-11-10.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Jim Provance (June 8, 2016). "Gov. Kasich signs medical marijuana law". Toledo Blade.
  7. Alan Johnson, Ohio's medical marijuana law goes in effect Thursday, but no pot for two years, Columbus Dispatch (September 6, 2016).
  8. Jackie Borchardt, Small businesses prepare for Ohio medical marijuana market months before regulations announced, Cleveland Plain Dealer (July 7, 2016).
  9. Tom Knox, Here are the conditions that qualify for medical marijuana in Ohio, Columbus Business First (June 16, 2016).
  10. Janice Williams (2016-11-14). "Marijuana Legalization In Ohio: Several Cities Vote In Favor Of Decriminalization Laws". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
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