A concerted effort is underway in Ohio to bring adult-use cannabis to the November ballot, as legislators doubled down on bipartisan negotiations.
State representatives Casey Weinstein, a Democrat from Hudson, and Jamie Callender, a Republican from Concord, unveiled House Bill 168, which aims to legalize adult-use cannabis. The move follows a fresh citizen initiative seeking the same outcome.
The bill, introduced this week, is an evolution of previous attempts at legalization, building upon last year’s efforts and following in the footsteps of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. That group is currently gathering signatures in the hopes of propelling an adult-use legalization measure onto this year’s ballot.
HB 168 is currently awaiting a committee assignment and sponsor testimony.
The proposed law would permit individuals aged 21 and above to buy and possess up to 50 grams of cannabis and grow a maximum of six plants – with only three allowed to be mature at any given moment – for their own consumption.
A 10% tax would be levied on cannabis products, with the revenue directed towards:
- K-12 public education.
- Local communities that permit the operation of dispensaries.
- Substance abuse treatment.
- Law enforcement actions against illicit drug trafficking.
- The state’s general fund.
Those with prior convictions related to marijuana possession or cultivation could approach the courts to have these records cleared.
The bill also proposes a significant change for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, which oversees the state’s current medical-only market. The department would be renamed the Division of Marijuana Control and its authority expanded to regulate adult-use cannabis cultivation, processing, and sales.
The CRMLA needs 124,046 verified signatures to reach the ballot, spokesperson Tom Haren told Crain’s Cleveland Business. The target must be met by July 5 to qualify for the fall’s ballot.
Still, another potential roadblock remains: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has previously taken an opposing stance on adult-use legalization. After President Joe Biden called on governors to pardon state-level offenses for simple cannabis possession, a spokesperson for DeWine told Cleveland.com it was unlikely that the governor would heed this call at the state level.
If the initiative qualifies for the November ballot, Ohio could be the next state to decide on adult-use cannabis legalization. If fails to meet the July 5 deadline, the issue could still qualify for the 2024 ballot.
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.