The Ohio Board of Pharmacy declared that over-the-counter sales of cannabidiol (CBD) are illegal, despite the substance’s current widespread availability in grocery, health, and other non-licensed stores across the state.
This means that CBD sales are now only legal in Ohio from state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The problem, however, is that no state medicinal marijuana licenses have yet been issued, even though Ohio approved medical marijuana in 2016, and may not be until 2019, due to the state’s regulatory delays.
“Until dispensaries are operational,” the Board wrote, “no one, including board licensees, may possess or sell CBD oil or other marijuana-related products.” The board issued 56 provisional licenses in June of this year, granting licensees six months to build out their facilities and meet all obligations in state law and rules.
The new guidance means that all products containing CBD must comply with the same rigorous testing procedures and adhere to the same rules as products with real cannabis. Further, any product derived from cannabis must have a “known source,” showing quantities of active ingredients, and CBD must undergo testing in a state-licensed lab. However, no labs that were issued provisional licenses are presently open for business, and it is unlikely that any will be until the end of 2018.
The CBD ruling came after Ohio’s provisional dispensary licensees asked the Board for guidance on whether they could sell the same CBD products in their stores that are seen on shelves at health and grocery stores.
Ohio’s 2016 medical marijuana law, House Bill 523, made no changes to the legal definition of marijuana, which does not distinguish a difference between hemp and marijuana. And while Ohio’s definition of illegal marijuana exempts stalks and other parts of the plant, neither Ohio nor federal law exempts “resin,” the sticky substance found on stems and flowers that actually produces CBD and THC.
The Board cited Ohio law defining marijuana as most parts of the plant, including CBD derived from industrial hemp, which is defined in the federal Farm Act of 2014 as containing 0.3% or less THC, a psychoactive component of the plant. The Board also cited clarification from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued last year, after the federal agency created a new code for marijuana extracts.
A field guide for law enforcement is in the process of being drafted, but it is not immediately clear how Ohio plans to enforce its CBD limit, given the product’s ubiquity. Indiana made a similar CBD ruling last year, only to see seizures put on hold until the state legislature could adjust the law to allow CBD sales outside dispensaries. Michigan regulators have also said that CBD products are legal only within the medical marijuana regulatory framework, which has driven CBD producers out of state.
CBD oil is purported to help treat a number of issues, including anxiety, epilepsy, inflammation and pain. Earlier this year, the FDA recommended for approval a CBD drug called Epidiolex to treat some forms of childhood epilepsy.