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Ohio Senate Bill 57 Legalizes Hemp Growing and Sale of CBD Products in Ohio

By: Jennifer Lawry Adams and Jodi Rich

About: Health Care & Regulated Industries

Ohio Senate Bill 57 was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine on July 30, 2019, legalizing the cultivation of hemp (with a license from the Ohio Department of Agriculture) and the immediate sale of cannabidiol (CBD) products in the state of Ohio.

Until the passage of this bill, the regulatory environment for the sale of CBD products was unpredictable in Ohio. The 2018 Farm Bill passed at the federal level required states to have a plan to regulate the sale of hemp and CBD products, and until Senate Bill 57 was signed, Ohio did not have any structure in place in order to comply with the Farm Bill. Further, last August, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy asserted that the sale of CBD products fell under its control pursuant to Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP), making the sale of CBD without a license unlawful. The new law expressly carves hemp products, including CBD products, out of the definition of controlled substances under Ohio law and clarifies that neither are subject to the OMMCP.

Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 57, there was no difference under the law between growing hemp and growing marijuana, and the cultivation of hemp outside of OMMCP was illegal. Under the new law, the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture is to issue rules in conjunction with the legalization of hemp cultivation in the state of Ohio and to license growers. A license to grow hemp will be required even for products like rope that will not be consumed. Many people in the agricultural sector have criticized Ohio for being too late to the table in creating its regulatory framework for the growth of hemp, pointing out that neighboring states already allow its cultivation.

Although the 2018 Farm Bill did provide some regulatory framework at the federal level for the cultivation of hemp, it did not address the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory authority. In fact, the FDA has issued a series of warning letters to companies making health claims regarding CBD products. As recently as July 23, 2019, the FDA issued a press release stating that there remain unanswered questions regarding the safety and effectiveness of CBD. Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. stated, “Consumers should beware of purchasing or using any such products.”

Ulmer’s Health Care & Regulated Industries Group advises clients on emerging issues in the ever-changing health care space, including providing counsel on a broad range of medical marijuana matters. Please reach out to our team if you have any questions about changing laws and regulations in this challenging industry.