By Ed Lentz

The Hancock County Extension office has been getting calls about the potential for hemp as a new agronomic crop.

There has been some confusion on the differences between hemp and marijuana. Both are Cannabis sativas, but they have different chemical properties and may be further classified with a different cultivar or subspecies name.

Marijuana contains much more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than hemp. THC is the chemical responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana. In hemp, THC levels are generally too low to cause this effect.

Hemp has many uses — construction materials, fabrics and clothing, and animal bedding. It has even been discussed as a potential cover crop.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a very popular extract of the hemp plant that is alleged to help those with anxiety, pain, inflammation, and other ailments, but research has not been done to verify its effectiveness for medical use.

Note that CBD is also an extract of the marijuana plant.

Hemp has become a topic of discussion because of the passage of the recent federal farm bill. In this bill, the federal government removed restrictions on growing hemp and even allowed it to be covered by federal crop insurance.

Specifically, the farm bill removed hemp from the federal list of controlled substances.

The main hemp provision of the bill, Section 10113, separates hemp from the definition of marijuana and redefines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

However, hemp cannot currently be cultivated in Ohio.

The new hemp language in the farm bill allows states to be more restrictive with hemp than the federal government, so Ohio can continue its ban on certain hemp products even with the new federal law.

Ohio cannot, however, stop the transportation of hemp products across the state because of federal transportation law changes in the farm bill.

Conversely, Ohio’s General Assembly could remove hemp from Ohio’s definition of marijuana and redefine hemp according to the farm bill’s new definition, which could allow for legal hemp cultivation.

Even though hemp cannot be legally grown in Ohio, it appears that some hemp products may be legal to sell in the state.

Ohio law defines marijuana as “all parts of a plant of the genus cannabis” in Ohio Revised Code section 3719.01. Hemp is in the genus cannabis, as discussed earlier. Therefore, under current Ohio law, hemp is the same as marijuana.

Marijuana is a controlled substance under Ohio law, and the law states that no “person shall knowingly obtain, possess, or use a controlled substance.”

However, there are exceptions to Ohio’s definition of marijuana.

According to Ohio law, marijuana “does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oils or cake made from the seeds of the plant, or any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks, except the resin extracted from the mature stalks, fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant that is incapable of germination.”

Since hemp falls under the definition of marijuana in Ohio, it is possible that some of these exceptions could also apply to certain hemp products made from stalks or seeds. Thus, it is plausible that some hemp products could be sold and used in Ohio.

The law also states, however, that no person (other than those licensed under the medical marijuana law) “shall knowingly cultivate” marijuana. Again, since hemp is part of the state’s definition of marijuana, under the law, that means that nobody can “knowingly cultivate” hemp, either.

At this time, CBD oil falls under the Ohio medical marijuana law passed in 2016, which only allows licensed dispensaries to sell the product. In order to obtain medical marijuana in Ohio, it would have to be prescribed by a physician with which the patient has a “bona fide physician-client relationship,” and the patient would have to have a qualifying medical condition.

Since Ohio law lumps hemp in with marijuana, this means that in order to obtain CBD oil derived from hemp, a person would also have to follow the steps to obtain medical marijuana. Hemp-derived CBD oil also does not fall under any exceptions in Ohio’s definition of marijuana.

Ohio’s State Board of Pharmacy specifically stated in a guidance document that CBD oil can only be legally dispensed from a licensed dispensary. In releasing this guidance, the Board of Pharmacy is purporting to act under the rulemaking authority granted under ORC 3796.04.

In summary, it appears as though some excepted hemp products could be sold in Ohio, but not CBD oil, as it does not fall under the exception. Even if some hemp products can be sold in Ohio, hemp itself cannot currently be cultivated in Ohio.

The Ohio General Assembly would have to remove hemp from the definition of marijuana before it could be grown as a crop. Senate Bill 57 has already been introduced to remove hemp from this definition.

Thus, hemp cannot be legally grown in Ohio fields this year, but that could change in future years.

This discussion was adapted from an article written by Ellen Essman, senior research associate, Ohio State University Extension agricultural law blog.

Lentz is extension educator for agriculture and natural resources for the Ohio State University Extension Service in Hancock County. He can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at lentz.38@osu.edu.

Lentz can be heard with Vaun Wickerham on weekdays at 6:35 a.m. on WFIN, at 5:43 a.m. on WKXA-FM, and at 5:28 a.m. at 106.3 The Fox.

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