Los Angeles, CA. Dr Cyberspace by Bob Bishop — Everyone I talk to now is asking me — Is marijuana legal in Ohio? Good question. Here are the facts.
On July 30, 2019, the state of Ohio passed Senate Bill 57 into law. The law effectively legalized hemp by changing the definition of marijuana to exclude hemp.
That might sound like a play on words.
Many of the state’s law enforcement officials think so.
Columbus, the capital city of Ohio, has stated it will not prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases, according to WBNS 10TV.
Why all of the confusion?
Well, it seems that changing the definition of marijuana to exclude hemp was based on THC levels.
THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis also known as marijuana.
THC is the compound in marijuana that gives users the buzz or euphoric high.
Hemp with a THC level over 0.3% is now classified as marijuana in Ohio.
However, a THC level of 0.3% or less indicates legal hemp.
The problem is that hemp and marijuana look and smell identical.
“Now we have to distinguish the difference between hemp and marijuana,” said Jason Pappas, VP of Ohio’s Police Union.
“That’s not possible for a human being to do, it has to be done through crime analysis.”
Unfortunately, crime labs in Ohio aren’t presently capable of quantifying the amount of THC in marijuana.
“Until these testing requirements are fixed … it’s going to be very difficult to go after any marijuana cases in Ohio,” said Pappas.
“You legalized marijuana in Ohio for [the] time being.”
Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, echoes Pappas’ belief that marijuana is now legal in Ohio.
“This bill de facto legalizes marijuana in Ohio… at least for a time,” says Tobin.
“We raised this concern with legislators during debate of this bill. It’s
disappointing those concerns were rejected.”
The closest lab able to quantify the THC in hemp is located in Kentucky but the backlog may be disqualifying.
Prosecuting Misdemeanor Marijuana Cases On Hold
So, prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases will remain on hold for now.
Or at least until the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation establishes a reliable method of determining THC levels.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost distributed a letter to prosecutors throughout the state, saying the state crime lab is working to validate ways to meet the new requirement, and it could take a while.
“BCI is in early … stages of validating … methods to meet this new legal requirement,” Yost said, adding it could “take several months.”
The BCI has recommended to prosecutors: “Suspend identification of marijuana testing,” and also urged them against indicting “cannabis-related items.”
There were various reactions among Ohio County prosecutors to the new law, like Hamilton County prosecutor, Joe Deters.
He told law enforcement officials to be patient that there is plenty of time.
The statute of limitations on felony marijuana charges is six years.
Cannabis is a class-1 drug. So, you can be charged with a felony according to Ohio drug possession laws.
Officers should be instructed to continue to investigate these crimes as in the past, suggests Deters.
The Columbus city attorney says that he will not prosecute misdemeanor pot cases, and will dismiss any cases now pending.
So, Is Marijuana Legal In Ohio?
Marijuana is still illegal in Ohio even though medical marijuana dispensaries are legal in the state.