Cannabis reform activists in Ohio can now circulate petitions for a cannabis legalization measure after receiving permission to begin collecting signatures to place the proposal before lawmakers.
The Ohio Ballot Board approved the proposed legalization measure from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) as a single issue on Monday, allowing the group to begin collecting the nearly 133,000 signatures necessary to submit the proposal to the legislature.
“We’re happy with today’s outcome and believe the ballot board made the right call on this one,” campaign spokesman Tom Haren said in a press release after receiving the green light to circulate petitions, adding that the group would begin collecting signatures “as soon as possible.”
If the group collects at least 132,887 valid signatures, the proposal will head to the Ohio General Assembly for consideration by the legislature. If lawmakers decline to approve the measure or amend it, supporters could collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the proposal before voters, possibly as soon as the November 2022 general election.
Under the proposed statute, adults 21 and older would be permitted to possess and purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. Additionally, the proposal allows for the home cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by adults, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. Regulated, commercial cannabis production and sales would be legalized as well.
The legalization plan also levies a 10 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, with 36 percent of revenue going to local governments that host cannabis businesses and 25 percent dedicated to funding substance abuse programs. Another three percent of taxes raised would be used for operational costs to govern the legal cannabis program, with the remainder allocated to a cannabis social equity program to remedy disproportionate harms caused by the War on Drugs.
The proposal also allows local governments to opt out of allowing marijuana companies from operating within their jurisdictions, although that authority would not apply to existing medical marijuana businesses.
Earlier Ohio Petition Nixed By AG
In early August, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost rejected an initial draft of a summary of the cannabis legalization proposal. After reviewing the proposal to ensure it was a “fair and truthful” description of the law, Yost cited a list of seven deficiencies in the summary and returned it to supporters for correction. The attorney general wrote, for example, that the summary did not adequately explain the “cannabis social equity and jobs program” and did not clearly indicate that home growers are limited to possessing up to six cannabis plants.
“In total, the summary does not properly advise a potential signer of a proposed measure’s character and limitations,” Yost wrote in a letter to the group’s attorney.
Yost approved a revised version of the summary language on August 20, clearing the proposal for Monday’s consideration by the ballot board.
Although CRMLA could take the proposal to the voters if necessary, Haren says that the group is “laser focused” on getting the legislature to approve a legal source of cannabis in Ohio.
“The name really says it all,” Haren said. “We want to regulate marijuana like alcohol. By that, we mean restrict sales to people under 21 years of age. We want to make sure every product is tested, is produced here in Ohio by licensed cultivators or processors [and] sold at licensed dispensaries.”
Haren added that if the plan is approved by lawmakers, Ohio’s adult-use cannabis program could launch as quickly as within 90 days of the effective date of the new statute. But if the legislature balks at the proposal, he expects the legalization effort to succeed at the ballot box.
“It’s time for Ohio to take the next step,” Haren said. “We think this is something Ohioans support and are in favor of. We think it’s wildly popular among the voting public.”
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.