Ohio lawmakers celebrated 4/20 this year with a new bill that would legalize adult-use cannabis sales in the Buckeye State.
The proposed bill, sponsored by Democratic State Reps. Casey Weinstein and Terrence Upchurch, almost exactly copies the language of a legalization initiative proposed by local cannabis activists. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) has been working to get this measure onto the state's 2022 election ballot, but have yet to collect enough signatures to do so.
Back in January, the CTRMLA turned in the first 133,000 signatures supporting their initiative. Under Ohio law, this initial petition automatically sent the group's proposal to the state legislature, giving lawmakers four months to decide if they want to amend or pass the bill on their own. But so far, three months have already elapsed, and lawmakers have yet to take up the issue.
“We’re three months into a four month window that we have, and we’re ignoring the voters,” Weinstein told Marijuana Moment. “We are shutting out Ohioans, and that’s unacceptable in my view and completely antithetical to our job. And so I had enough and I put forward a legislative vehicle for us to codify this statute.”
The new bill sets out to accomplish the same goals as the original ballot measure. Both proposals would make it legal for adults over 21 to possess up to 2.5 ounces of weed and 15 grams of concentrate. Adults would be allowed to grow up to six plants at home, or buy pot at up to 50 state-licensed dispensaries. The proposals would require the state to “study and fund” weed-related criminal justice reforms, but do not establish a specific system for expunging cannabis crimes.
Existing medical marijuana businesses would get first dibs on recreational licenses, and regulators would be required to start issuing licenses within nine months of the law's passage. Legal sales would be taxed at 10%, and 36% of the revenue from this tax would go to fund social equity and jobs programs in the state. Another 36% would go to towns and cities that allow adult-use businesses to open in their jurisdictions.
The proposals also have some concessions designed to assuage the fears of anyone who might still be on the fence about legalization. About a quarter of all weed tax revenue would go to fund drug education and “cannabis addiction” programs. Individual localities would also be allowed to opt out of allowing legal weed businesses to operate in their territories. Employers would also be allowed to prohibit their employees from using recreational cannabis.
Upchurch and Weinstein proposed another legalization bill last year, but conservative politicians stopped it dead in its tracks. Unfortunately, it seems like the new legalization bill will meet the same fate, but Weinstein said he hopes the bill demonstrates that at least a few lawmakers are willing to fight for cannabis reform.
“Marijuana legalization is overdue in Ohio,” said Weinstein in a press release. “The hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters who signed this petition—and millions more who support legalization statewide—asked for action from our legislature. Instead, GOP leaders have ignored them.”
Although the bill's chances of success seem slim, voters may still have a chance to override the will of conservative politicians. CTRMLA can place their version of the initiative on this year's general election ballot if they can collect an additional 132,887 valid signatures. And if the measure does make it to the ballot, several polls suggest that voters will indeed say yes to legal weed.