Ohio Republican Aims High With Medical Cannabis Expansion Bill
A Republican-sponsored medical cannabis expansion bill in Ohio intends to give licensed physicians the power to determine qualifying conditions on a case-by-case basis.
State Sen. Steve Huffman, who represents a Dayton-area district in Southwest Ohio, introduced Senate Bill 261 Nov. 9.
While the 66-page legislation would expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis to include autism spectrum disorder, arthritis, migraines and terminal illness, it ultimately would include “any other medical condition” determined by a licensed physician.
Since the inception of Ohio’s medical cannabis program in 2016, and its implementation in 2019, Huffman has worked alongside medical providers, the state’s Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Commerce to identify ways to improve the program to better serve patients, according to a news release from his office.
“As a medical doctor and a state senator, I am committed to the quality of life of the people I serve,” Huffman said in the release. “The provisions in this bill are about improving the treatment options for patients.”
The bill would allow for medical cannabis to be processed and dispensed in additional forms so that a patient can be treated through a variety of methods. Curbside and drive-thru dispensing, which Ohio and many other states OK’d as COVID-19 safety measures, would be continued.
However, the smoking or combustion of medical cannabis would remain a prohibited method of use in Huffman’s bill—under current law, vaporization and inhalation are permitted, but not smoking.
The legislation also aims to increase the number of retail licenses to achieve a ratio of at least one dispensary per 1,000 registered patients up to Ohio’s first 300,000 registered patients—or 300 dispensaries—and then add additional dispensaries on an as-needed basis, according to the bill’s text.
As of Sept. 30, 2021, Ohio’s medical cannabis program included 131,536 patients with both an active registration and an active recommendation, as well as 57 provisional dispensary licensees who have received certificates of operation. Under Huffman’s proposal, there should be more than double that number of dispensaries available to Ohio’s current patients.
In April, the pharmacy board voted to make 73 more dispensary licenses available to deal with patient complaints about lack of access and high prices, The Associated Press reported.
“My hope is that this business-friendly bill will create greater access for patients at a lower cost,” Huffman said.
From Southwest Ohio to Northeast Ohio, registered medical patients can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $280 to $290 for an ounce of flower. That price is higher than in surrounding states because there’s not enough product, Huffman said.
That said, S.B. 261 would increase the size of medical cannabis cultivation sites from 25,000 square feet to 75,000 square feet for Level I license holders, and from 3,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet for Level II license holders. As of October 2021, there were 15 Level I and 12 Level I cultivation licensees with certificates of operation.
The legislation would also direct the Department of Commerce to have primary oversight—instead of co-regulation with the pharmacy board—in an effort to streamline the process for businesses.