Adult-Use Marijuana Initiative Expected to Reach Ohio Voters This Fall

A recent poll showed than 60% of Ohioans support recreational cannabis.

This story was reprinted with permission from Crain’s Cleveland and written by Jeremy Nobile

A campaign to legalize marijuana for Ohioans age 21 and older is ready to collect additional signatures in order to qualify for this November’s ballot.

The recreational marijuana law, proposed as an initiated statute by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, was transmitted to the Ohio General Assembly on Jan. 3.

Lawmakers have four months to take action on a law proposed through an initiated statute. If they don’t pass the measure as presented or simply take no action at all – as was the case here – the campaign behind the initiative has an opportunity to collect additional signatures to qualify as a voter referendum.

CRMLA spokesperson Tom Haren said the campaign will begin collecting its second tranche of signatures on Friday, May 5.

The number of verified signatures required for an initiated statute to come before voters is based on 6% of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election.

The CRMLA campaign needed half that total in order to be presented to lawmakers. To get on the ballot, it must now collect the second half.

Haren said the magic number of verified signatures the initiative needs to reach the ballot is 124,046.

Though the campaign is permitted a total of 90 days to collect those signatures, the deadline to turn in petitions to qualify for this fall’s ballot is July 5.

Should the campaign not make that July 5 deadline, it could still qualify for the ballot in 2024.

Measure Challenges

Organizers are confident the initiative both reaches the ballot this year and gets approved by voters.

“We are gathering in a significantly different environment than we did when we gathered our first batch,” Haren said. “Since life is back to normal, there will be additional opportunities to gather signatures that were not necessarily there when we gathered the first round. That’s one of the reasons we are confident we can gather the required number by July 5, because we did this once before in an even more challenging environment.”

CRMLA’s first batch of signatures was actually collected in 2021 when door-to-door canvassing and public events were not super popular with the pandemic still raging.

Despite those challenges, signatures were still compiled, and the measure was procedurally on track to come before lawmakers and then voters in 2022.

However, conservative politicians blocked the initiative from reaching the ballot last year by raising technicality questions about whether CRMLA actually met required filing deadlines.

It’s possible Ohio Republicans didn’t want the marijuana legalization initiative on the same ballot as the gubernatorial election because of the expectation the referendum could draw more liberal and progressive voters who would vote against conservative interests.

Regardless, a settlement was reached that let CRMLA resubmit its proposed law with the previously gathered signatures at the start of this year, which put the initiative on track for where it is today.

Besides a seemingly friendlier environment for signature gathering, the CRMLA is also emboldened by the overall popularity of marijuana legalization and myriad decriminalization laws that have been passed across the country.

Gallup surveys last fall showed for the third straight year that 68% of U.S. adults favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Another poll, conducted last fall by the Siena College Research Institute for Spectrum News, found that 60% of Ohioans support adult-use cannabis laws, while 37% were opposed.

Key Features

“Our proposal takes the best practices from other states while building off the existing medical marijuana framework,” Haren said. “We think we will have a best-in-class regulatory framework and that our proposal will be a model for the other half of the country to build their programs.”

Here are some key features of the adult-use law proposed by CRMLA:

  • Legalize and regulate the cultivation, manufacture, testing and sale of marijuana and marijuana products to adults age 21 and over.
  • Legalize home grow for adults 21 and older with a limit of six plants per adult, but 12 plants per household.
  • Establish a 10% excise tax for adult-use sales at the point of sale.
  • Create protocols for licensing additional cultivators, processors and dispensaries, which would be regulated through a single agency, the Division of Cannabis Control, instead of the separate regulatory bodies that oversee aspects of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program today.
  • Establish a framework for use of annual tax-generated proceeds. That includes separate carveouts of 36% for social equity and jobs programs; 36% to be divvied up among communities that host adult-use dispensaries; 25% to fund education and treatment for individuals with addiction issues; and 3% to fund a Division of Cannabis Control.

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