Megan Greulich

On July 30, 2019, Governor Mike DeWine signed Ohio Senate Bill (SB) 57 legalizing the possession, purchase or sale of hemp and hemp products. The bill included an emergency provision making it effective immediately, which means that school districts are likely to see an increase in requests for administration of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a hemp derivative. School districts should be aware of Ohio’s legalization of hemp and hemp products and how the new provisions impact the use of derivatives like CBD oil.

Many people associate CBD oil with marijuana, but SB 57 distinguishes the two by defining “hemp” and “hemp products,” and affirmatively excluding those items from the statutory definition of “marijuana.” “Hemp” is now defined 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 (THC) concentration of not more than .3% on a dry weight basis.” Hemp and marijuana both come from cannabis plants, but hemp plants have a very low concentration of THC. Marijuana has higher levels of THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana that has the potential to create a “high” or intoxicating effect.

The new provisions define “hemp products” as any products made with hemp and containing .3% or less THC, including “cosmetics, personal care products, dietary supplements or food intended for animal or human consumption, cloth, cordage, fiber, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard, and any other product containing one or more cannabinoids derived from hemp, including cannabidiol.” The language specifically excludes hemp and hemp products from the statutory definition of “drug,” and removes THC found in hemp and hemp products from Ohio’s list of Schedule I controlled substances.

As a result of hemp and hemp product legalization, the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy released a statement Tuesday, clarifying that in light of the bill, hemp products, including CBD oil now may be sold outside of licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The Board of Pharmacy also stated that other Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) requirements do not apply to the use of hemp and hemp products, including CBD oil. The Board and the Ohio Department of Commerce plan to release future guidance regarding any OMMCP restrictions on licensed dispensaries selling hemp-derived CBD products.

Another important factor is the status of hemp legalization at the federal level. In 2018, the Federal Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of “marijuana” in the Controlled Substances Act. But in its guidance document titled, “What you need to know (and what we’re working to find out) about products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, including CBD,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) notes that CBD oil still is subject to the same laws and requirements as other FDA-regulated products. To date, the FDA only has approved one CBD prescription drug product for treating certain forms of epilepsy, and currently is working to study the overall effects of CBD use. The guidance also highlights that while some products are marketed to add CBD oil to food or label it as a dietary supplement, marketing CBD oil in this manner remains illegal under federal law.

So what’s a district to do? Now that hemp and hemp products like CBD oil are no longer considered “marijuana” or “drugs,” and their possession, purchase and sale are legal, districts should not treat them as illegal substances. Requests for administration of CBD oil to students should be treated the same as any other request for administration of a homeopathic remedy under existing board policies and procedures. Legalization of hemp and hemp products does not prevent the board from setting reasonable standards for administration of medications or other substances within the school setting. Remember, only hemp and hemp products containing THC levels not to exceed .3% are legal. School districts should set reasonable expectations and standards for the use of hemp and hemp product derivatives, as well as for verification that maximum THC levels do not to exceed .3% prior to any product’s approval for use in the school setting.

Megan Greulich is an attorney at Walter | Haverfield who focuses her practice on education law. She can be reached at mgreulich@walterhav.com or at 614-246-2263.