Advocates Move Closer to Adult Recreational Marijuana Legalization in Ohio
Cannabis advocates have gotten the green light to collect signatures for a petition to legalize marijuana in Ohio.
Meanwhile, Ohio lawmakers have also introduced marijuana legalization legislation.
Both proposals allow the sale and possession of marijuana by adults 21 and older.
Confidence is high that voters will legalize marijuana in Ohio despite opposition from the governor.
Marijuana advocacy group the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has gotten the go-ahead from the state attorney general’s office. They can now collect signatures to place a measure calling for the legalization of marijuana in Ohio before state lawmakers.
The Coalition officially launched its ballot effort last month. The AG office initially rejected the summary language of an earlier version. The Ohio Ballot Board has already approved the proposed statute.
Advocates will now be required to gather 132,887 signatures of registered Ohio voters to legally submit the proposal to the state Legislature. If the Coalition collects all 132,887 signatures for the statutory proposal, the legislature will have four months to initiate or reject the legislation.
If the legislators reject or revise the measure advocates will be required to collect an additional 132,887 signatures prior to placing the measure on the 2022 ballot.
What’s in the Ohio marijuana legalization petition?
If the proposed legislation becomes law, individuals 21 years of age and older will be permitted to possess, consume, purchase and cultivate cannabis. The new law would also ensure that 10 percent of the proceeds would be allocated for addiction rehabilitation, education programs, and municipalities with cannabis businesses.
Additionally, under the proposed initiative, municipalities will have the power to limit or ban marijuana businesses in their jurisdiction.
A Division of Cannabis Control would also be established under the Department of Commerce if the measure is initiated. The Division would have the authority to “license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult-use cannabis operators, adult-use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed.”
The proposal would give existing medical marijuana companies a significant head-start in the recreational market. Qualified applicants who own or operate medical marijuana businesses would be issued adult-use licenses. The licenses would have to be issued within nine months of the enactment of the new legislation.
The DCC will be required to issue 50 licenses for adult-use Ohio marijuana dispensaries and 40 recreational cultivator licenses. These licenses will be issued “with a preference to applicants who are participants under the cannabis social equity and jobs program.” Moreover, additional recreational licenses will be issued by regulators two years after the approval of the first operator.
Ohio Rep. Casey Weinstein, D- Hudson, a co-sponsor of the proposal, spoke with WHIO-TV. According to Weinstein, the authors of the bill combined the best of marijuana legalization legislation penned in states such as Washington.
One of the benefits of the bill, according to Weinstein, is that it could prove to be a financial windfall for the state. According to Weinstein, $1.1 billion is going “back to communities that are hosting dispensaries. For K-12 schools and veterans’ programs.”
In addition to bringing badly needed tax revenue, legalizing marijuana would save the state millions in law enforcement costs related to enforcing marijuana laws. Moreover, millions of dollars currently spent on black market marijuana or in Michigan to the north would stay in the state and help the economy.
Another co-sponsor, Rep. Terrence Upchurch, D- Cleveland says that decriminalizing marijuana and implementing social justice programs is the right thing to do to make up for the failed War on Drugs and the damage it has done, especially to minority communities. The bill could result in the expungement of tens of thousands of low-level marijuana convictions.
Upchurch said, “I represent one of the most impoverished districts, predominantly African-American, that can’t get student loans, can’t get jobs and those low-level convictions are 30 years old. There are convictions that are preventing them from getting back into society and being productive citizens,”
Legislative efforts to legalize marijuana in Ohio
Late last month, in a ground-breaking move by Ohio legislators, a bill was formally introduced to legalize marijuana production, sales, and possession in Ohio.
The bill would allow adults 21 years and older to legally possess up to five ounces of marijuana. The measure would also permit adults to grow up to 12 plants for personal use.
The proposal also seeks to expunge prior possession and cultivation convictions — offenses that will be legalized if the new bill is given the green light.
This bill, much like the CTRMLA initiative, also proposes a 10 percent excise tax on cannabis sales. The proposal takes administrative costs into consideration. Under the proposal, all proceeds will be divided amongst:
Municipalities with one marijuana dispensary (15%)
Counties with one shop (15%),
K-12 education (35%)
Marijuana decriminalization efforts in Ohio
At present, 22 Ohio cities have decriminalized marijuana. Local statutes significantly reduce punitive measures for cannabis possession from an offense punishable by incarceration and a fine down to the “lowest penalty allowed by state law.”
Cannabis advocates and activists are also pursuing similar policy changes in dozens of cities this year, and have collected enough signatures to qualify for local ballots.
Opposition to marijuana legalization in Ohio
Not surprisingly, it is predicted that Republican Governor Mike DeWine will probably oppose the legislative measure. However, advocates are optimistic that a voter-led initiative will succeed.
Effects of legalization of recreational marijuana on Ohio cannabis industry
If legislators enact the bill, it could result in Ohio’s medical marijuana businesses automatically receiving recreational licenses.
In a progressive move, Chicago-based Cresco Labs is looking to expand a marijuana cultivation and processing facility in Ohio. The multi-state operator is optimistic and plans to invest $40 million in the rapidly-growing Ohio cannabis market. Their optimism is no doubt due to the adult-legalization measures looming on the horizon.
Local authorities stand behind Cresco’s plan and project that the business will triple the size of its Yellow Springs facilities. Yellow Springs is part of the Dayton metro area. The facility, according to the Dayton Business Journal will consist of a 71,000 square foot cultivation center as well as a 24,000 square foot processing plant.
Ohio’s medical marijuana market is expected to expand more than 50 percent this year, with sales projected to be between $350 and $425 million, according to the 2021 MJBizFactbook.