The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol this summer obtained enough signatures to get the citizen-initiated statute on the Nov. 7 general election ballot, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office announced Wednesday.
Here’s what voters should know about the proposed statute — its rules for legal cannabis possession in Ohio, when it will take effect and what has to happen between now and the election.
How it would work
The law, if passed, would let Ohioans 21 years and older possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of cannabis extract and keep up to six cannabis plants per person, up to 12 per household.
It would also levy a 10% sales tax funding social equity and jobs programs, addiction treatment and education and the communities that host dispensaries, according to its website. The coalition expects the statute to generate more than than $400 million in annual revenue.
An Ohio State University study estimates recreational pot’s tax revenue potential at between $276 million and $403 million, after the industry has been operating for five years. By comparison, taxes on alcoholic beverages and spiritous liquor raised just less than $118 million in 2022, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation’s annual report.
Even though cannabis would become legal for adult use, the statute would not prohibit employers from keeping drug testing policies, or firing employees or turning away applicants for failing drug screens. THC, the psychoactive substance found in cannabis, can be detected in urine for up to two to three days after use, or up to about a month for frequent users, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
And just like alcohol, marijuana would still be illegal to consume in public or in vehicles, just as laws against driving while intoxicated would continue to be enforced.
The next steps
The coalition’s initiative was put into motion and succeeded last year, but it was ultimately put on hiatus in a deal with state officials. It got back into gear this past May, following a missed deadline for state legislators to adopt its proposed bill.
That means the next step in the process is to put the initiative before the Ohio Ballot Board, which will then prescribe the exact language that will appear on voters ballots this November. That language must be certified at least 75 days before the election, which is Thursday, Aug. 24.
There are only a few more days left for petitioners or other groups to file arguments for or against the initiative. They’re due 80 days before the election, which is Saturday, Aug. 19. The proposed statute and any certified arguments will then be published in the local newspaper weekly until the election.
Recreational marijuana will then appear as an issue on the Nov. 7 general election ballot, needing a simple majority vote of 50% plus one vote to pass.
A recent Suffolk University and USA Today poll of 500 likely voters in Ohio showed nearly 59% of them were in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.
What if the issue passes?
If passed, the statute would take effect 30 days after the election, which is Dec. 7. Ohio would then become the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
But don’t expect to be able to walk right up to the counter at your local dispensary the day after the election — maybe not even until we’re well into 2024.
Under the statute, existing medical marijuana facilities could obtain new adult-use cannabis licenses from the newly formed Division of Marijuana Control inside the state’s Department of Commerce — but that process could take up to nine months after it goes into effect, depending on how applications are processed.
The new law also wouldn’t be set in stone. It would be susceptible to repeal or amendment by state lawmakers. That would work just like a normal piece of statehouse legislation, requiring passage of both chambers and the governor’s signature.
During last year’s petition process, Republican lawmakers — who currently hold a majority in both chambers — signaled disfavor for the proposed recreational marijuana bill, the Associated Press reported. Likewise, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has also pushed back against legalized marijuana.
What if the issue fails?
There’s a separate legislative push to make adult-use cannabis legal in Ohio — similar in design to the citizen-initiated statute — but it’s still yet to find its spark.
Ohio House Bill 168, called the Ohio Adult Use Act, introduced in May by state Reps. Casey Weinstein of Hudson, D-34th, and Jamie Callender of Concord, R-57th, would allow Ohioans who are at least 21 years old to cultivate, purchase and possess cannabis, while providing for its taxation and regulation.
The bill was assigned to a House committee that month, but has yet to have a hearing. It’s an amalgamation of two separate bills Weinstein and Callender put forth in the last General Assembly. Neither saw a vote.