As of now, 24 states have fully legalized weed. Ohio may be next to join the list. Residents will vote on recreational marijuana legalization in November.
If the bill is passed, it will legalize marijuana possession and cultivation for adults. It will also allow commercial production and sales of cannabis products.
Voters Support of the Recreational Marijuana Legalization Initiative
Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose notified the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol that legalization supporters had collected 127,772 signatures of voters who backed the recreational marijuana legalization bill. The number exceeds the minimum needed to put the proposal on the ballot.
“In the absence of judicial direction to the contrary, I will direct the boards of elections to place the proposed law on the November 7, 2023 General Election ballot,” LaRose wrote in a statement.
The proposal did not receive the votes required to get on the ballot initially. However, supporters of recreational marijuana legalization collected additional signatures. On July 5, they submitted over 222,000 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, 125,000 more than what was needed to get the initiative on the ballot.
Falling Short on the Vote
Campaign spokesperson Tom Haren was happy to see that the proposal made it to the ballot.
“We are thrilled to have reached this milestone. This is a testament to the hard work of our campaign and the support of Ohio voters who are ready for common-sense marijuana reform,” he said.
But three weeks later, the recreational marijuana legalization proposal organizers were told they fell short of the 124,046 signatures needed to get the proposal on the ballot. They needed less than 700 signatures to reach their goal. However, state law allowed them 10 days to get the extra signatures.
“To submit a sufficient number of valid signatures, petitioners need an additional 679 valid signatures that are not contained in the original prior supplementary petitions,” LaRose wrote in a statement on July 25.
Haren responded to the statement by saying it would be “easy” to obtain the signatures needed to reach the goal.
“It looks like we came up a little short in this first phase, but now we have 10 days to find just 679 voters to sign a supplemental petition- this is going to be easy because a majority of Ohioans support our proposal to regulate and tax adult-use marijuana,” said Haren. “We look forward to giving Ohio voters a chance to make their voices heard this November.”
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol resumed its signature-collecting process. They used social media platforms to publicize their cause. By August 3, they had collected 6,545 additional signatures. They exceeded their goal the day before the 10-day deadline.
What Does Ohio’s Recreation Marijuana Legalization Initiative Entail?
If Ohio’s recreational marijuana legalization imitative passes, adults 21 and over will be permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana flower and up to 15 ounces of concentrates.
Cultivation for personal use will be permitted. Adults will be allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants. Homes with more than one adult will be permitted to grow up to 12 plants.
The commercial production and sale of cannabis products will be overseen by a new state agency called the Division of Cannabis Control. Regulators will have the authority to “license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult-use cannabis operators, adult-use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed”.
Cannabis products will be taxed at 10%. The money will cover administrative regulation costs, substance abuse treatment programs, and social equity and job programs. The social equity program will ensure that some cannabis cultivation and dispensary licenses are reserved for individuals from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by previous marijuana state law enforcement.
“We are proposing to regulate marijuana for adult use, just like we do for alcohol,” said Haren. “Our proposal fixes a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and benefiting everyone.
Proposal for Recreational Marijuana Legalization Does Not Include Expungements
Unlike many recreational marijuana legalization bills, Ohio’s initiative does not include provisions to expunge the records of people who were previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes. However, the proposal’s text states that it will “study and fund judicial and criminal justice reform including bail, parole, sentencing reform, expungement and sealing of records, legal aid, and community policing related to marijuana”.
“With the recent passage of SB 288, a major criminal justice reform bill that allows prosecutors to initiate sealing or expungement actions on behalf of individuals convicted of low-level controlled substance offenses and made legal the use or possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia, the state is primed to right history by providing relief to individuals that have been incarcerated for cannabis,” said Stephen Post, senior communications associate at the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit committed to the release of cannabis prisoners. “Meanwhile, Governor Mike DeWine already has the clemency power to enact his relief for Ohioans, and the public needs to urge him to do so.”
Will the Recreational Marijuana Initiative Pass?
A 2022 Spectrum News/Sienna College Poll shows the state favors reform. 60% of voters support recreational marijuana legalization.
“We expect that our proposal is going to pass with a mandate from Ohio voters that we want to follow in the footsteps of the other half of the United States that have legalized and regulated marijuana since 2013,” Haren said.
Brian Vicente, Ohio native and founding partner of the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente, LLP, says if the state’s recreational marijuana legalization initiative passes, it could open doors for the remaining 27 states that do not allow recreational weed.
“The significance of Ohio’s pending vote on legalization cannot be overstated. Ohio has long been considered the political bellwether for the country. If Ohio supports this measure, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the country joins the over two dozen states with adult-use legalization,” Vicente said.