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The Ohio Way

Autumn on the North Coast is bursting with color. Every year Mother Nature dazzles us with a show better than any Thanksgiving Day Parade. We drink cider, ride haywagons, and celebrate blazing leaves of red, orange, and yellow. This year though, Ohioans focus was all about the green, as the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol brought Issue 2 to the ballot. On November 7th, the citizens of Ohio voted loud and clear, deciding to make our state the 24th in the Union to legalize adult use recreational cannabis.

Supporters of the measure cross their fingers waiting to see if Gov. Mike Dewine and company can stifle their reefer madness fears, and carry out the will of the people. Following the election The Governor said in a statement that he will not call for repeal, rather ask the legislature to change certain aspects of the bill including tax rate, public use ruling, and THC limit caps before the law goes into effect on December 7th.

“What the people have clearly told us is they want legal marijuana in Ohio, we are going to see that they have that, but we’ve also got to live up to our responsibility to all the people in the state of Ohio, whether they voted for it or voted against it … that we do this in a very responsible way, we do it in a respectful way. And we do it, frankly, the Ohio way.” 

Dewine expands in a second statement, on why it’s ok to make changes to a voter approved initiative. 

“I truly believe that most people went in (to voting booths) and the issue was, are we going to have legal marijuana or we’re not going to have legal marijuana? And the details – I’m not sure people get focused on it…” 

As we watch the rest of the leaves drop and wait to see how this unfolds, It seems like a good time to take a look at what ‘The Ohio Way’ has meant in the past. 

In 2016, Ohio legislature grudgingly rolled out a Medical Marijuana program in attempts to appease voters and hold off a recreational bill from making the ballot. It worked, and they did it ‘frankly, the Ohio way’, which apparently involves lots of math. We’ve all been stumped at some point by Toilet Paper Math. Well, imagine toilet paper math getting the crap kicked out of it and thrown down a staircase… Now we’re getting close to The Ohio Way.

The first dispensary sales began 2 years after the program began and the rules took some getting used to. The state decided to measure cannabis in dosage limits of one tenth of an ounce per day. All the industry measurement and packaging requirements were set in multiples of 2.83 grams, AKA the Ohio Tenth. 

Patients were allotted 90 points and up to 8 ounces per 90 day cycle. The problem was the point system they used to track it didn’t match up to the 1/10 unit measurement they decided on for sales. So they rounded it… The Ohio Way. See, One tenth costs 2 points, but 2 tenths cost 3 points. 6 tenths is 7. A full ounce costs 12, and it just keeps jumping erratically from there. Keeping up so far?… Good. 

Because that chart only applies to flower that contains less than 23%THC. If the flower contained 23% or more, it was considered Tier 2 and worth twice the points… If you count it The Ohio Way. So, One tenth of Tier 2 flower still costs 2 points, but 2 tenths over 23% is worth 4 points. A full ounce of Tier 2 flower costs 17 points which is obviously not twice the 12 points taken for Tier 1, but also not 2 points per tenth like it should be on the packaging side. 

Ohioans are a tough bunch though, and they crunched their way through the numbers to come out on the other side with their Ohio grown cannabis flower firmly in hand and finally ready to medicate legally… As long as there wasn’t a lighter in the other hand. Doing it The Ohio Way meant flame and combustion were not approved consumption methods; smoking cannabis was still illegal. Flower could be consumed using state inspected and approved vaporizer brands only. 

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The Ohio Way requires all cannabis to be packaged for retail at the manufacturer, meaning patients can’t see or smell products before purchases. Patients must rely on descriptions provided by the companies, lab test results, and mostly trial and error to find out which products they prefer. Missing or defective products are the patients’ responsibility to prove and even then the manufacturer’s are not required to compensate. Many do, but the claim process is not regulated by the state. 

A few years of doing it The Ohio Way had the program in bad shape, sales were slumping and only about 25% of registered patients actually made cannabis purchases in Ohio dispensaries. The rest were road tripping to our cooler neighbor to the North, Michigan. Dispensaries in Michigan were happy to serve Ohio medical patients, and the cost and availability was far more friendly than what they found at home.

In January 2022 Ohio revamped their calculation system to a more reasonable version of The Ohio Way. They scrapped the tier system and corrected their miscalculation so one point equals one tenth equals one day. Patient accounts refill with 45 points every 45 days. It was a big fix, but still left many buckeyes either out of medicine waiting for their days to reset, or still trekking up to The Big Mitten, which is also unlawful in the Ohio medical program. 

Ohio still does not allow smoking of medical marijuana (the most ignored rule in the state), but they did away with the ridiculous vaporizer approval regulations. The Ohio Way also prohibits patients from growing cannabis, sharing any amount of marijuana with other patients, possessing cannabis not purchased in an Ohio dispensary, or processing cannabis they did buy in an Ohio dispensary into edibles or concentrates for personal use. If they could have written a ‘no smiling during use’ clause into the language they probably would have. That’s the Ohio way. 

Friends and supporters from across the country watch and wait with us to see how much of our adult use bill survives, and there’s something we need you all to know… When you hear Governor Dewine say he’s doing something The Ohio Way, please know he doesn’t speak for all of us.

About the Author

Bob Ellison is a lifelong Ohioan and outspoken cannabis activist helping to normalize marijuana support in the community one neighbor at a time. You might find him hiking in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with his wife and daughter, rocking out to live music in Cleveland, the Rock n’ Roll Capital of the World, or reading a book on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. An ordained minister, Bob officiates weddings, and plans to offer cannabis nuptials to lovebirds across The Buckeye State.

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