Ohio Marijuana Legalization Referendum Needs More Signatures

Organizers have until Aug. 4 to submit 679 more signatures.

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

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has hit another snag in its quest to bring an adult-use marijuana referendum, though the organization intends to overcome this latest setback.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office informed the coalition on Tuesday, July 25, that it still requires an additional 679 verified voter signatures to qualify for the fall ballot.

The group has 10 days from that date to submit at least that many signatures if it wants its measure, “An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis,” to come before voters in November.

The CRMLA submitted petitions featuring more than 220,000 signatures on Wednesday, July 5. It needed at least 124,046 verified signatures. But with at least 56% of its signatures disqualified, it came up a bit shy with 123,367.

CRMLA officials suggest they’ll have no issue getting those additional signatures.

“I want to thank the more than 222,000 Ohioans, spanning all of Ohio’s 88 counties, who signed our petition to regulate marijuana like alcohol,” said CRMLA spokesman Tom Haren. “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. We look forward to giving Ohio voters a chance to make their voices heard this November.”

Pointing to the overall popularity of marijuana legalization, campaign organizers have said that they are confident the measure will pass.

Besides benefiting Ohio adults interested in recreational marijuana, the measure would also present a lift for the state’s licensed cannabis companies, which currently serve a medical-only market and are grappling with an oversupply of product.

The CRMLA has drawn financial support from both industry interests as well as groups that pursue reform of state marijuana laws.

This bump in the road is one of many the CRMLA has faced since the group began to coalesce in 2020.

Because the pandemic hampered efforts to collect voter signatures in 2020, it wasn’t until 2021 that the organization began canvassing in earnest. The goal was to place its proposed marijuana legalization statute on the fall 2022 ballot.

As an initiated statute, the measure requires an initial tranche of petitions in order to come before the General Assembly. If lawmakers don’t then pass the measure as presented, the group behind the initiative may collect a second tranche of signatures to qualify as a voter referendum.

But Republican lawmakers questioned whether the CRMLA met filing deadlines for its original petitions.

This, in turn, raised questions about whether the proposed law’s original transmission to the legislature in 2022 was legitimate, which set it back on the timeline for reaching the fall ballot last year. CRMLA asserted it was in the right and was prepared to fight back in court.

settlement was reached, however, which let the CRMLA carry forward its first tranche of verified signatures to 2023, which is where the process began this year.

The CRMLA’s proposed law was transmitted to the legislature in January. Lawmakers took no action on it, which allowed the CRMLA to collect its additional signatures in May. The petitions collected since then are what was submitted to the state earlier this month.

Now, the CRMLA needs less than 700 more signatures verified by the state in order to clear its final hurdle en route to the ballot.

Here are some key things the proposed law would do:

  • 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 carve-outs 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 (the state’s latest budget bill calls for the creation of a Division of Marijuana Control within the Ohio Department of Commerce, which eliminates the Ohio Board of Pharmacy as a regulator).

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