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Rules for Ohio's pending adult-use cannabis program moving 'quickly'

Close up of a marijuana flower bud
A citizen-initiated statute to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio will be put to voters in November 2023.

Administrative rulemaking for the state’s pending recreational marijuana program is moving full steam ahead, one industry trade association says, with sales likely to start by the third quarter of the year.

Cannabis possession, use and home growth went legal for Ohioans who are 21 and older at the end of 2023 with voter approval of Issue 2. But sales to those adult-use, non-medical customers is not yet legal. The Ohio Department of Commerce is hammering out the program through its recently formed Division of Cannabis Control.

“They have been moving very, very quickly to get a rule package in place and finalized to meet or, it would not surprise me, to beat the timelines outlined in Issue 2,” said Tom Haren, a spokesperson for trade association the Ohio Cannabis Coalition (OHCANN).

Haren also led the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which was behind Issue 2.

Since February, the division has submitted “tranches” of draft regulations for consideration, he said. Some are scheduled for hearing in front of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review next month.

The current plan, Haren said, is for licensure applications to go live in June. The first round of applications reserved for existing medical dispensaries seeking dual licensure, with social equity applications and new applications to follow.

“We've seen in other states they follow the same model because you don't have to start back at square one,” Haren said in a Thursday interview.

First-round licenses are on track to go out by the Issue 2 deadline of early September, but possibly sooner, he said.

Ohio legalized medical marijuana nearly eight years ago, and the medical program isn't going away. Product-wise, everything sold through that program can be sold for recreational use. But new offerings will likely hit shelves that would not have been available for medical-only customers, Haren said—for instance, products that can be smoked.

“Under the medical program, combustion of marijuana flower is prohibited. In the adult use program, combustion is allowed,” Haren said. “For instance, a medical patient couldn't buy a pre-roll under the medical program unless they were over 21 and bought it as an adult use product and then paid the 10% tax.”

Potential legislative changes

If lawmakers still want to have some say in the program, from the revenue tax structure to other provisions, the window for legislative changes prior to sales kicking off is closing.

Last December—about six hours before Issue 2 became law as is—a bill to change adult-use cannabis laws cleared the Ohio Senate 28-2. One major change was to limit home growers to six plants per household instead of 12.

But the Ohio House didn’t move that proposal or its own version then, negotiations across the chambers seemingly broke down, and since, little movement has been seen.

“We have had a lot of discussions in the House,” House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) told reporters in February. “Our priority right now is having those thorough discussions. As you know, there's a long runway for this issue, so we still have some time to do that.”

Lawmakers are largely back in Columbus starting Tuesday, with floor sessions scheduled in both chambers for the following Wednesday. More information about the status of the state’s recreational marijuana program can be found here.

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