What Ohioans need to know about the marijuana legalization initiative

What Ohioans need to know about the marijuana legalization initiative

An Ohio group has introduced an initiated statute that would legalize recreational marijuana.

Ohio’s initiated statute process has been in the news lately, with the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol launching an effort to legalize marijuana possession and use in the state.  That’s leaving a lot of Ohioans wondering – what is the initiative process and how does it work?

The initiative process in Ohio is complex and contains multiple steps.

  1. The petition to pass a law must get 1,000 signatures in order to be sent to the Ohio Attorney General.
  2. If the Attorney General approves the statutory summary, a summary of the proposed initiative, the petition moves on to the Ohio Ballot Board of the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
  3. If the Ballot Board certifies the language on the petition, the petitioners must collect an additional 132,887 signatures (3% of the total votes cast for governor in 2018).
  4. After those signatures are verified, the initiative is sent to the Ohio General Assembly for final consideration.
  5. At this point, the legislature can pass the law, make changes or do nothing. If the group does not agree with the legislative activities, it can move forward with the second round of signature gathering. If the legislature declines to pass the law, or does not act at all for four months, citizens can put the initiative directly on the ballot by gathering another 132,887 signatures.

That’s where Ohio stands now in the case of the current marijuana statute. The Attorney General did not certify the summary as “fair and truthful” on August 5, thereby rejecting it. The campaign can cure the objections and resubmit to the Attorney General or aim to place the initiative on the ballot, if necessary, in the November 2022 election.

The legislation permits “controlled and regulated sales and use” of cannabis by adults aged 21 or older and legalizes home-grown marijuana with a limit of six plants per person. Among other provisions, the legislation would establish a Division of Cannabis Control within the Ohio Department of Commerce for regulation and a “cannabis social equity and jobs program” that would use new tax revenue from the sale of marijuana to help disadvantaged Ohioans get their start in the recreational marijuana industry and fund criminal justice reform efforts. The new tax revenue would be raised from a 10% tax on adult-use cannabis sales (separate from regular sales taxes, which would still apply).

Gov. John Kasich and Ohio lawmakers legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but recreational use remained illegal. “We are proposing to regulate marijuana for adult use, just like we do for alcohol. Our proposal fixes a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and benefiting everyone,” said Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spokesman Tom Haren.

Current Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, on the other hand, has said that categorically legalizing adult marijuana use would be “a mistake.” DeWine says he is concerned that legalizing recreational marijuana will “change the culture” among teens, leading to increased underage drug use. DeWine also worries that children could inadvertently consume foods, like candy, containing marijuana. “I just look at all the things that happen with recreational marijuana and I kind of scratch my head and I say, ‘why? Why would we want to do that?’” DeWine said in 2019.

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