Legislators in Ohio are making another attempt to approve a bill that would expand access to the state’s medical marijuana program and change which government entity is responsible for it.
Senate Bill 9 was introduced in the General Government committee on Tuesday by Senators Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) and Kirk Schuring (R-Canton). Most of the current Ohio Board of Pharmacy’s responsibility for medical marijuana regulation would be transferred to a new Division of Marijuana Control inside the Ohio Department of Commerce under the proposed legislation.
The law would also make medical marijuana available to a broader range of Ohio residents. In addition to the present law’s list of qualifying ailments, this new legislation includes a further half a dozen, such as arthritis, migraines, chronic muscular spasms, terminal illness, and opioid use disorder.
Any condition that a doctor is trained to treat and classifies as “debilitating” can be recommended for medical marijuana use.
Huffman’s first version of the bill passed the Ohio House in the middle of December, but it died in committee.
Huffman and Schuring spoke at the first hearing on SB9 on Tuesday, saying that many Ohioans travel outside the state to get medicinal marijuana products, in part due to the inefficiencies of the present system in Ohio.
Huffman testified on Tuesday that Ohioans may get their medication cheaper in Michigan. In order to attract customers, “we need to turn that around and make it more friendly so people come here and they have a safe, viable product.”
Schuring claimed that more than half of medical marijuana program signups were no longer making use of their card. According to data from the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program as of January 10th, roughly 164,000 patients have both an active registration and recommendation, out of a total of close to 324,000 patients registered since the program’s inception.
Data from the program shows that sixty dispensaries have been granted licenses and are open for business. The measure mandates that within the first 300,000 patients registered, there must be at least one dispensary for every 1,000 patients.
Initiated in 1996, the state’s medical marijuana program has generated $1.14 billion in sales as of the beginning of 2023.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose resubmitted a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in the state close to two weeks before SB9 was launched. If the Republican-led Statehouse does not act on the initiative within four months, it could appear on the ballot in the November election.
Even if recreational use becomes legal in the near future, which Huffman says would create a climate in Ohio where there is not “much of a medical marijuana market,” Huffman still plans to press for an overhaul of the current medical system.
Huffman has stated that he is less concerned with the ballot measure and more concerned with improving the sector as much as possible.
On Tuesday, Senate General Government Committee Chair Michael Rulli (R-Salem) pledged swift action on the bill.