Ohio legislators are now weighing two efforts to expand medical cannabis use, one that’s passed the Senate and one that’s passed the House, dramatically increasing the likelihood of some expansion this year. The most recent effort, HB60, which would add autism spectrum disorder to the current list of 21 accepted medical uses, easily passed the Ohio House Wednesday evening 77-14.
“We don’t see a problem with the Senate, in that several senators were reps when we first passed medical,” said Tim Johnson, a cannabis lobbyist and advocate.
“We’re glad to see HB60 pass through to the senate. We’re [also] optimistic about SB261 passing through the House,” said Andy Rayburn, president of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association.
Last December, a more comprehensive effort to expand medical use, SB261, passed the Senate 26-5. That legislation also includes a plan to consolidate regulation under a single agency, rather than the current split between the Board of Pharmacy and Department of Commerce, significantly increases the number of dispensary licenses, and would more than double the allowed square footage for small, Level II cultivators.
While two bills expanding medical cannabis have each passed a chamber, three bills legalizing adult use await action in the chambers. Two proposed in the House and a third introduced as a result of a statutory petition by voters.
Last month Senate President Matt Huffman put a brick on all of those adult-use legalization efforts when he said, “I’m not going to bring it to the Senate floor. And if that means people want to go put it on the ballot, have at it.”
The statutory petition bill, organized by advocacy group Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, was introduced after the group gathered 136,729 Ohio voter signatures. Now Senate Pres. Hoffman’s brick sits on the bill as the legislature is granted four months to consider the bill. Once that time expires Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol can run a new petition to put the measure on the November ballot.
“I hope they didn’t screw up their timing. The legislature could hold that bill until the end of May,” said Johnson. “That gives them June, and four to five weeks to collect 300,000 signatures. Iit has to be submitted in July to make the November ballot.”