The state of Ohio is in the process—though behind schedule—of implementing a legal medical marijuana program.
13th District Congressman Tim Ryan has publicly stated that marijuana possession should be legal in all 50 states and has co-sponsored a bill that would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances.
Ballot initiatives in some Ohio cities seek to eliminate local penalties for marijuana use and possession.
Yet, for most Ohio residents, use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana (or “marihuana,” as it’s spelled in the Ohio statutes) within the state remain criminal acts.
The landscape is further complicated by the fact that it appears that approved dispensaries within the state won’t yet be in a position to provide legal marijuana when the medical program is slated to commence on September 8th and that it may be months before they are.
In part, that’s because of a gap in the law.
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, even for medical purposes. And, the statute authorizing certain entities to cultivate marijuana for those who qualify to purchase medical marijuana makes no provision regarding where and how the first round of plants or seeds can be obtained.
In short, though licensed dispensaries may grow and distribute marijuana under the terms of the state’s medical marijuana program, there appears to be no legal way to get the ball rolling.
Penalties Under Current Ohio Marijuana Laws
Outside the limited exceptions contained in the state’s medical marijuana law, possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana are against the law in Ohio.
However, penalties for crimes involving small amounts of marijuana are not severe, unless an aggravating factor such as proximity to a school or juvenile is involved.
Possession of fewer than 100 grams of marijuana, cultivation of fewer than 100 grams of marijuana, and trafficking a “gift” of 20 grams or less of marijuana are all minor misdemeanors.
In Ohio, a minor misdemeanor is punishable only by a fine and does not carry jail time.
Perhaps just as importantly, conviction of a minor misdemeanor does not constitute a “criminal record” in Ohio, and generally, need not be disclosed on job applications and in other contexts requiring disclosure of criminal convictions.
All other marijuana-related crimes are misdemeanors or felonies, meaning that conviction results in a criminal record and may result in jail time. The range of possible penalties is significant, depending on factors such as:
- Whether the defendant is accused of merely possessing marijuana or is charged with cultivation or trafficking
- The amount of marihuana involved
- Whether the crime occurs in the vicinity of a school or a juvenile
At the low end, possession of at least 100 grams but less than 200 grams of marijuana and cultivation of a like amount of marijuana are both misdemeanors in the fourth degree, carrying a maximum possible penalty of 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.
However, trafficking of marijuana and even possession of significantly larger quantities are treated much more harshly.
Apart from the small “gift” provision described above, trafficking in marijuana is always a felony.
Possession of 5,000 grams or more of marihuana or trafficking in 1,000 grams or more of marihuana carries a presumption that a prison sentence shall be imposed, and prison sentences are mandatory for some marijuana crimes involving larger quantities.
Talk to an Experienced Marijuana Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with possession of marijuana, cultivation of marijuana, or trafficking in marijuana, it is in your best interests to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The criminal justice system can move quickly, and defenses may be lost if you don’t act promptly and comply with technical procedural requirements.
The attorneys at Dworken & Bernstein regularly fight for the rights of criminal defendants in Lake and Cuyahoga counties.
Schedule a consultation right now, to learn how we can help you.