Clearing up the confusion on Ohio’s marijuana laws

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — In Ohio, it’s legal to grow, smoke and eat marijuana. 

But six months after voters legalized recreational marijuana, it’s still illegal to buy it or sell it. 

This had led to much confusion about exactly what people can and can’t do under Ohio’s new law.  

For example, at the Athens Home Grow Info Expo last month, vendors lined the Community Center with tables of cannabis plants to sell to visitors interested in growing at home. 

Joshua Crosier of Appalachian Girls Cannabis Co. moved through the crowed with a cardboard box offering free cannabis samples packaged in small containers. 

“I mean, you can’t have a tomato convention and have it look like this, you know? Like this is amazing,” Crosier said. 

If a visitor at the expo grabbed one of Crosier’s free samples, that’s perfectly fine. But if they bought one of the cannabis plants for sale to legally grow it at home, they’d be breaking the law. 

This is just one of the many cannabis events that are growing in popularity across the state. 

Gov. Mike DeWine has described the whole situation as a mess and is calling on the state legislature to fix it. 

Right now, laws regulating marijuana and hemp are in conflict with state and federal rules. That, plus the chemistry of it all, only adds to the confusion.  

The first thing to understand: Hemp and marijuana are both species of cannabis. 

According to Ohio cannabis attorney Thomas Haren, the legal difference between the two is their Delta 9 THC content. This is the part of the plant that makes you high.  

A hemp plant has less than 0.3% THC, and a marijuana plant contains more than 0.3% THC. 

While this distinction is clear in the law, it is almost impossible to tell with the naked eye.  

“If you’re not growing hemp, then you’re growing marijuana,” Ohio cannabis attorney Greg May said. “Or if you’re not selling hemp, then you’re selling marijuana.” 

Ohio’s home grow laws only apply to marijuana plants. Not hemp. 

To grow hemp requires a cultivation license through the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Those plants or seeds can only be sold to someone else with a license.  

As for marijuana, anyone at least 21 years old can grow it at home. The new laws limit home growers to six plants per person, and 12 plants per household. 

But someone looking to get started cannot buy marijuana plants to grow at home. Under state law, those plants cannot be sold — they can only be gifted to someone without payment or public advertisement. 

So, selling plants to the public at an expo, whether hemp or marijuana, is illegal. 

If home growers can’t sell marijuana plants, who can? 

Only a licensed cultivator can sell a marijuana plant. And only a licensed dispensary can sell marijuana products. 

Right now, there are no recreational dispensaries in Ohio.

The state is preparing to issue the first round of recreational marijuana licenses. But only existing medical dispensaries and cultivators can apply for one.  

According to James Crawford with the Ohio Department of Commerce, it will be at least two years before the state will even consider issuing licenses to anyone else. 

This has been another source of confusion. 

In Athens, city officials were scrambling to pass rules regulating the location of recreational dispensaries, fearing that the city would be overrun by shops. 

“We had a lot of concern with the concentration of recreational marijuana facilities, or cannabis establishments within especially the uptown,” Athens City Planner Meghan Jennings said. 

For now, they don’t need to worry. 

Athens has two local dispensaries that can apply for recreational licenses: Mavuno of Ohio and Debbie’s Dispensary. 

The Mavuno of Ohio medical dispensary storefront in Athens, Ohio.
Only medicinal dispensaries can apply for recreational marijuana licenses for now. Mavuno of Ohio, one of Athens medical dispensaries, has applied. [Shane Scalfaro | WOUB].
Even then, there could only be at most one shop uptown because state law requires a one-mile buffer between dispensaries. On top of that, dispensaries can’t be within 500 feet of a school, church, park, playground or library.  

That prevents most of the vape shops in Athens from receiving a license even if they become available.  

Now that the state has issued its guidelines, the City Council is revising its proposed dispensary rules. People can expect to hear the revisions when the council returns from recess in August.