Lawmakers in Ohio’s House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to approve a bill that would legalize hemp agriculture and CBD products in the state. The measure, Senate Bill 57, was approved by a vote of 88-3 after being passed by the state Senate in March.
Changes to the bill made by the House were also approved on Wednesday. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine for his consideration. If he approves the measure, it will go into effect immediately, giving farmers in Ohio a new option for their operations.
“This is the best news that’s going to hit farm country this year,” said Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township.
New Option for Ohio Farmers
House Speaker Larry Householder said that in a year that has been tough on Ohio farmers, it was important that the bill was passed before lawmakers went on their upcoming summer recess.
“Farmers are getting hit pretty hard right now with tariffs and weather, I think that it can help them plan a little bit,” Householder said. “Now they know that there’s a path for us to have hemp in the state of Ohio.”
Under current state law, hemp is a schedule I controlled substance like all other varieties of the cannabis plant. Senate Bill 57 changes Ohio law so that it conforms with the federal legalization of hemp passed by Congress with the 2018 Farm Bill.
Under the measure, hemp would be excluded from the definition of marijuana used to enforce drug laws and prohibit the state Board of Pharmacy from listing hemp and hemp products as controlled substances. The bill also requires that CBD oil previously confiscated be returned to the seller, provided that the product conforms with federal law.
In August of last year, the pharmacy board released a statement requiring CBD products to be sold only at state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. That decision led many retailers to pull CBD products from their shelves while others openly flaunted the ruling.
Bill Sets Regulations for Hemp Agriculture
Senate Bill 57 also sets regulations for hemp agriculture, requiring that crops be no more than 0.3 percent THC and that farmers be licensed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. No cap on licenses has been set by lawmakers.
An amendment from Democratic Rep. Stephanie Howse that would have removed a regulation that prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a controlled substance-related felony in the last 10 years from being licensed to grow hemp was not approved by the body.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Kyle Koehler, a Republican representative from Springfield, said that Senate Bill 57 brings Ohio law into accordance with the federal Farm Bill.
“We feel that the bill does what the federal government needs while creating as few regulations as possible,” Koehler said.
But Tim Johnson, the co-founder of the Ohio Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said that he fears that the newly legal hemp industry will be regulated too tightly.
“For the farmers and small businesses alike, let the market work…(for) a successful program for all Ohioans,” Johnson said.