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Oversight of hemp, CBD could move to Ohio agriculture department

One of the unintended consequences of the legalization and mandated regulation of medical marijuana in Ohio is that it impacted not only existing consumer markets but also agriculture.

State legislators authorized legalization in 2016, but as of last week were still cleaning up one regulation banning the growth of a non-psychotropic variety of the Cannabis sativa plant used for the paper, textile, biofuel and animal feed industries and in consumer salves, creams and edible gummies.

Senate Bill 57, sponsored by Ohio Sen. Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, and Ohio Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, is aimed at decriminalizing the non-psychotropic variety and was passed in the Ohio Senate Thursday.

Now the bill is before the Ohio House of Representatives, calling on legislators to affirm oversight by the Ohio Department of Agriculture instead of the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. The bill includes the creation of hemp cultivation licensing and cultivation programming through the state.

“This an exciting opportunity for farmers to expand the crops they plant,” said Hill in a release after the senate passed the bill. “Farmers can rotate hemp to improve soil health while earning more profit than many traditional cover crops. I’m eager to see all the ways that Ohio will benefit from this legislation.”

His office also emphasized the other uses of industrial hemp as the motivation for clarifying the definitions, though Hill could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.

Until the house votes, and potentially Gov. Mike DeWine signs, it’s illegal in Ohio to grow or process hemp, or sell any CBD oil products in Ohio.

“Marijuana products, including CBD (Cannabidiol) oil, can only be dispensed in a licensed Medical Marijuana Control Program dispensary,” says the State Board of Pharmacy in a frequently asked questions section available on its website. “Those marijuana products will have to comply with the rules and regulations of the program. All products must have a known source, as well as known quantities of active ingredients. Testing procedures will be conducted by testing laboratories licensed by the Ohio Department of Commerce.”

Calls for comment to the board’s media relations lines were not returned Tuesday.

“But this regulation doesn’t make sense on something that’s been totally mainstream for generations in clothing,” said Marietta Police Chief Rodney Hupp. “As far as I’m concerned it’s not been an issue in our area. Plus, my understanding is (hemp and CBD) are not what will get you high. I would just wonder (with edibles) if those would spike in a drug test.”

Marcus McCartney, an OSU extension educator in Washington County, said he’d heard of the cultivation of hemp for textiles in Ohio, but not for animal feed.

“The hemp industry is big, but all I hear is that it’s for fiber production,” he said. “It could be used like grains as well in crops, but all that comes to mind for feed would be cattle.”

According to the Ohio Legislative Commission, the bill would exclude hemp and hemp products from the definition of marijuana that is used to enforce controlled substance laws.

If it passes, oversight of hemp and non-psychoactive CBD would move to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, requiring the establishment of a new fund within the state treasury or enforcement of cultivation licensing and processing procedures.

The legislation also currently outlines a setback requirement between medical marijuana cultivation areas and areas of hemp cultivation.

“It makes sense for the department of agriculture to have oversight since these are plants and not used medicinally,” said McCartney.

At a glance:

• Ohio Senate Bill 57 is now before the Ohio House of Representatives to decriminalize hemp and CBD oil, and license hemp cultivation under the regulation of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

• Currently all marijuana products, including CBD oil, can only be dispensed in a licensed Medical Marijuana Control Program dispensary regulated by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

• SB 57 would prohibit the board of pharmacy from listing hemp or hemp products as controlled substances.

• Hemp is a variety of the plant Cannabis sativa that can be used in industrial applications including:

• Paper.

• Textiles.

• Biofuel.

• Animal feed.

• Hemp contains a lower concentration of the psychotropic constituent of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

• Currently hemp is considered a Schedule I controlled substance under Ohio law.

• What’s Next: Senate Bill 57 passed in the senate last week and was introduced to the Ohio House Friday.

Source: Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

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