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Cannabis, delta-8 changes won't draw Ohio lawmakers back to Columbus early

Gov. Mike DeWine holds delta-8 THC at a news conference in January 2024.
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine holds delta-8 THC at a news conference in January 2024.

Ohio lawmakers gaveled in and out again Wednesday without sending anything that changes the state’s recreational cannabis laws to Gov. Mike DeWine.

Members of the House shot down a late night effort by Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who was trying to propose floor amendments to an unrelated bill that would have changed licenses for Level 1 cultivators, created more stringent advertising and packaging regulations, and enacted a public smoking ban, according to legislative text.

Even before that, negotiations on the issue burned out in the Senate by Wednesday's marathon session.

The Ohio House GOP caucus has been divided for months on what to do—and whether to do anything—when it comes to changing what voters ratified in Issue 2 in November 2023.

House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said twice this week he thinks standalone legislation to regulate delta-8 THC and other hemp-derived products might be a viable pathway.

“How do we deal with delta-8, 9, 10 or whatever the number is?” Stephens said Wednesday night. “I think it's probably best to try to handle that issue in separate bills, as opposed to one mega-bill.”

DeWine has been begging the legislature for months to take the issue on. He said in January he’d have no issue with an all-out ban of delta-8 THC, a route other states have gone. “I just want to get it off the shelves,” he said then.

In 2018, the federal Farm Bill removed cannabis products with less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC from the definition of marijuana. Delta-8 THC and other similar products fit the bill, which is why even before recreational marijuana was legalized, retailers could sell products with psychoactive ingredients that induce a high.

Very few regulations of the substance exist in Ohio, which is why it's legal to buy at any age.

Conversations will continue over the summer, Stephens said—although it’s unlikely any serious lawmaking will occur between now and the November election.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.