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Ohio lawmakers haven't forgotten about changing recreational marijuana law

Nathan Konik

Some of Ohio’s medical marijuana dispensaries are likely days away from the government green light to sell recreationally, after they submitted the dual license applications released by the Division of Cannabis Control on Friday.

In the background though, state lawmakers haven’t ruled out tweaks to the existing laws that regulate the pending recreational marijuana program—although the legislature has yet to successfully enact changes to the initiated statute ratified by voters last year.

Introduced by Sens. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City), Senate Bill 278 is the latest bill from the chamber that proposes big changes. It would move certain hemp products, like delta-8 THC, under the umbrella of licensed retailers and limit sale of them to adults 21 and older.

The federal Farm Bill created a gray area in 2018 by removing cannabis products with less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC from the definition of marijuana. Since then, the products have gone largely unregulated in Ohio.

Under SB 278, a ban on tobacco smoke in public places would also extend to marijuana smoke and home growers would have to register with the Division of Cannabis Control, among other provisions.

“The home grow situation is a problem,” Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said earlier this year, “Because it essentially will create a business in the home because what folks are allowed to grow is far beyond personal use.”

Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) said Tuesday he thinks the legislature needs to tie smaller loose ends, but that he doesn't agree with everything in SB 278—particularly the provisions he believes would limit home grow.

“We have fought for and have maintained and will maintain the right for home growth without being registered, without being licensed. What you grow in your house was voted on by the people,” Callender said.

But he said both chambers should take on regulating delta-8 THC and its other derivatives, something Gov. Mike DeWine has routinely asked lawmakers to do in the last six months.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.