The Buzz: 11/1

Ohio: State of marijuana

By Michael Brice Keller

As of Sept. 8, medical marijuana is legal in Ohio. As provided by HB 523, patients can immediately claim an affirmative defense to a marijuana charge occurring after that date, provided they have a doctor recommendation and meet other requirements.  A new chapter in history is playing out, but many wonder how we got here.

In 2015, the Marijuana Legalization Amendment was presented to the voters of Ohio, which provided for full legalization and paved the way for clearing offenders’ past records, as well.  Three distinct groups opposed.  First, the misguided, those that buy into reefer madness and simply say “no.”  It’s hard to be upset with people who just don’t understand.  The second was government and political sector people who tout the medical-only approach as if their moral wisdom is superior to the people’s rights.  We can thank them for the anti-monopoly legislation, HJR 4, which adds additional hurdles to almost every statewide ballot issue. The third, and most disappointing, were the “weed traitors.”  These folks are activists who reinforce the hateful propaganda and talking points of prohibition, mostly because they have decided the proposed plan is not expansive enough or doesn’t serve their economic advantage.  They can be heard repeating things like “monopoly,” “next year,” nagging about possession limits and other things.  It’s a schoolyard, “take-my-ball-and-go home” routine. Make no mistake: people died waiting for medicine.  For those who know prohibition is wrong, it was pride, money, ego, and self-interest they place above human life. At least for the misguided, they think they are protecting us from “bad drugs.”

Despite the “weed treason” in Ohio, some of us did keep the pressure on to get medical marijuana to the governor’s desk.  Medical marijuana in Ohio is notably limited in that home grow is not permitted and while whole plant material is to be made available to patients, vaporization is the only inhalation method as smoking or combustion is prohibited.  Edibles, tinctures, oils, and other preparations are favored in HB 523.  The more important issues are that the Ohio law provides for reciprocity for out-of-state medical marijuana patients and allows the affirmative defense until the Board of Pharmacy has the program up and running.  These two pieces of the puzzle, combined with decriminalization elements are key to expanding patient rights. The time is now.

Sept. 13 marks the effective date of SB 204, which provides for reinstatement of driver licenses suspended for drug offenses and removes the requirement for judges to suspend licenses in drug cases.  It creates a presumption, of sorts, that drug offenders keep their driver licenses so long as there is/was no nexus to driving like OVI/DUI.  For possession of marijuana under 100g, that means a $150 ticket and no license suspension.  One hundred-200g is still a Misdemeanor 4, 30 days in jail.  The point is that brave souls, who present themselves to a police officer with a gram, can challenge the law, try out the affirmative defense, and possibly establish expanded rights in a trial before a judge. They would not risk jail or a criminal record. Those, who are braver yet, can try it with 101g and risk jail (30 Days) and a criminal record, but it increases the burden of proof required by the prosecutor and entitles them to a jury.  I am neither advocating nor encouraging criminal activity, but rather highlighting the costs of civil disobedience and enumerating the realities of the situation.  Whether a seat on the bus, voting rights, or any other form of oppression, it is often standing in the court that is required for change to occur through the court.  Personal use rights through the legislature are not likely in the near term.  And ballot measures cost money, to which our “weed traitors” will no doubt reemerge to throw insults at the very people with the means to change the law.

So to recap what we have learned, all citizens would have legal access and home grow for personal purposes today, but bad actors interfered with your rights and chose to let people die.  Now, we have to do it the hard way, fighting for every inch, through a government monopoly, through the courts, and without personal use protections or a statutory right to home grow.

Tips for the activist, patient, and user: support your local decriminalization efforts; get doctor recommendations; use reasonable precautions to limit marijuana activities to non-criminal offenses where possible; maintain responsible practices concerning minors and other safety issues; and do not distribute marijuana for financial remuneration or in large amounts.  Lastly, two issues of importance: 1. never intentionally expose yourself to felony liability and 2.  consult an attorney in any issue where you are unclear about the laws and your rights.  There are countless minor differences between courts, jurisdictions, various ordinances, and other things that can affect the outcome of a particular case.

So as our country will see up to 10 percent of states voting on personal use legalization this November, please remember that even one ounce, protected as personal use for adults, is a monumental achievement. Lawyers can open the floodgates of marijuana rights development through the courts with that first step of personal use rights being enacted into law.

I have seen the drug war from both sides, and I stand for expansion of rights for personal use and access to medicine. We will get pretty close to “legal as lettuce” one day, but beware the posers and snakes-in-the-grass along the way.  The time is now to bring the marijuana issue to the front of the public debate.

Articles by Michael Brice Keller, while containing accounts of experiences and viewpoints from the legal world, are not legal advice. To contact Keller Law Office concerning legal services, please visit or call 937.5400.LAW(529).


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Michael Keller
Michael Brice Keller is a criminal defense attorney in Dayton who spends most days working on appointed counsel cases and public policy issues with his girlfriend and legal assistant Ashley. He’s a USAF Security Forces Veteran, former undercover investigator, police officer, and private military contractor. As a member of NORML and the founder of GreenFight ( he’s active in the reform of marijuana laws. You can reach him at

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