Ohio medical marijuana sales have officially surpassed the $1 billion mark since dispensaries started serving patients in April 2019.
Total sales reached $1,000,047,483 as of September 18 and then grew by another $8 million over the following week, according to data posted by the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program on Sunday.
The sales to date include 118,978 pounds of plant material and 10,990,809 units of manufactured products.
The milestone for the medical cannabis market comes as the state prepares to double the number of dispensaries by early next year, with regulators announcing in May that they had selected 70 new licensees through a lottery system.
It’s likely that increasing access points will lead to more sales, but advocates are also hoping that the legislature will enact a bill to allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis to patients for any condition they see fit, which could dramatically expand the marketplace even further.
The Senate did pass legislation in December that includes that reform, but it hasn’t yet advanced out of the House committee to which it was referred in March. There have been multiple hearings on the proposal in the House Government Oversight Committee, however, and the legislative session is still active through the end of the year.
Nearly 300,000 medical marijuana patients have been registered in Ohio since the launch of the program under the more limited qualifications prescribed in the state’s cannabis law—and about 150,000 of those currently have active recommendations and registrations.
Meanwhile, activists are positioned to bring adult-use legalization to a vote at the ballot next year.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) submitted signatures to put legalization on this November’s ballot, but a court ruled in May that they would not qualify because of timing problems. However, as part of a legal settlement, the court did clear activists to take the reform back up in 2023 without having to collect signatures to prompt a legislative review again.
A pair of Ohio Democratic lawmakers separately filed a bill to legalize marijuana in April that directly mirrors the proposed initiative that activists are pursuing, but it is not expected to advance in the legislature.
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Reps. Casey Weinstein (D) and Terrence Upchurch (D) are sponsoring the legislation. The pair filed a separate legalization bill—the first in state history—last summer, but that measure has not advanced.
A GOP legislator who’s sponsoring a different bill to tax and regulate cannabis has tempered expectations about the chances for legislative reform, signaling that the issue will likely have to be decided by voters.
Ohio voters rejected a 2015 legalization initiative that faced criticism from many reform advocates because of an oligopolistic model that would’ve granted exclusive control over cannabis production to the very funders who paid to put the measure on the ballot.
Activists suspended a subsequent campaign to place a legalization measure on the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A recent poll found that a slim majority of Ohio voters would support marijuana legalization at the ballot.
There are also local reform efforts underway in Ohio for 2022.
Ohio voters in at least seven cities will get a chance to join many of their neighboring jurisdictions in enacting local marijuana decriminalization at the ballot this November.
Activists targeted more than a dozen cities for this year’s election, collecting signatures to place cannabis reform initiatives on local ballots. The Sensible Movement Coalition said last month that they and NORML Appalachia of Ohio secured enough petitions to put the issue before voters in seven cities.
Both groups have organized efforts to locally decriminalize marijuana across the state for the better part of the last decade. To date, the reform has been enacted at the ballot in more than two dozen Ohio localities.
This year, voters will decide on decriminalization in Corning, Helena, Hemlock, Kent, Laurelville, Rushville and Shawnee. Local officials certified petitions for some of those jurisdictions before summer, with others being finalized more recently.
Voters in seven other cities approved ballot measures to decriminalize marijuana possession during last November’s election, building on a slew of previous local reforms in the state.
Prior to that election, more than 20 jurisdictions across the state had already adopted local statues effectively decriminalizing possession—some of which have been passed by voter initiatives while others were adopted by city councils in major cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.