The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol over the summer obtained enough signatures to get the citizen-initiated statute on the Nov. 7 general election ballot. It will appear as Issue 2, and require a simple majority of 50% plus one vote to pass.
Here’s what voters should know about the proposed statute — its rules for legal cannabis possession in Ohio, when it will take effect and the official arguments for or against legalization.
What is Ohio Issue 2?
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. They would also be allowed keep up to six cannabis plants, or as many as 12 if there are at least two adults 21 or older in the household.
It would also levy an additional 10% sales tax on cannabis products, on top of existing state and local sales taxes. Revenues would fund public safety, road improvements, drug treatment and prevention and investments into communities “disproportionately impacted by Ohio’s marijuana policy,” reads petitioners’ official argument.
The statute would establish the Division of Marijuana Control within the Ohio Department of Commerce, putting the state’s medical marijuana overseers in charge of licensing and regulating operators and testing laboratories and setting rules for implementing the new law.
Among its other provisions:
- A regulated business caught selling to anyone younger than 21 would lose its license.
- New cannabis shops or testing laboratories wouldn’t be able to go up within 500 feet of prohibited facilities like schools or public playgrounds and parks.
- The statute would allow cannabis cultivators to expand — up to quadruple or quintuple their size — to serve a widened customer base.
- Municipalities would be able to approve ordinances prohibiting new cannabis cultivators or dispensaries from setting up shop (though they can’t oust or limit existing marijuana facilities).
- Landlords could prohibit home-growing at properties they own.
Even though cannabis would become legal for adult use, the statute would not prohibit employers from enforcing 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 and 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.
Here’s how the issue will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot:
Arguments for and against Issue 2
The coalition’s official argument for Issue 2 leads with dollar signs. The coalition expects the statute to generate more than than $400 million in annual revenue.
An August Ohio State University study estimated recreational marijuana’s annual 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.
The coalition also calls the statute a remedy to the state’s “failed marijuana policy.”
“Our current marijuana laws can ruin lives based on one mistake. This measure will end unfairly harsh punishments for minor marijuana offenses, freeing local law enforcement to focus on serious, violent and unsolved crimes,” the argument reads.
“Passing this measure will create a legal marijuana market in Ohio with clear, regulated and enforced safety standards, thus drying up the black market,” it continues.
Meanwhile, Republican state sens. Mark Romanchuk, who serves Ashland, Richland and Medina counties; and Terry Johnson of Scioto County, a retired osteopathic physician; along with Republican state Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati drafted the official argument against Issue 2.
“Issue 2 is a bad plan that puts profits over people,” it reads. “It legalizes an addiction-for-profit industry at the expense of our families and poses substantial risks to the public health and safety of all Ohioans, especially children and adolescents, given marijuana’s high potential for abuse.”
The lawmakers argue that the passage of Issue 2 would cause Ohio to be “overrun with marijuana” like California and Colorado, two other states that have long since legalized; expose children to marijuana edibles in “kid-friendly” forms like candy and cookies; and contribute to a rise in DUIs — all while making “a few greedy investors rich.”
“These, and other societal costs, far outweigh any taxable benefit, especially at a pitiful 10% tax rate,” it continues. “This is simply a move to commercialize marijuana for billions in profit. It’s today’s version of Big Tobacco. We can’t rush this industry. More time and research is needed. A better plan is needed. Let’s not rush a decision that we’ll later regret.”
What do Ohio voters think of recreational marijuana?
Polling of more than 700 likely Ohio voters by Emerson College and The Hill during the 2022 primary season suggested Ohioans would approve legalization — albeit by a narrow margin. Fifty percent of those polled said they supported it, while another 40% said they were opposed.
An early July poll of 500 likely voters in Ohio by Suffolk University and USA Today showed nearly 59% of them were in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.
And of the more than 800 likely voters polled in mid-August by FM3 Research, 67% said they support marijuana legalization in principle. When presented with the exact ballot language, 59% said they would “probably” or “definitely” support it on Nov. 7, or that they leaned toward a “yes” vote.
The coalition shared that pollster’s results with FOX 8 News:
What if Issue 2 passes?
If passed, the statute would take effect 30 days after the election, which is Dec. 7. Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
Under the statute, existing medical marijuana facilities could obtain new adult-use cannabis licenses from the Division of Marijuana Control.
The division would have 40 new licenses to hand out for smaller cannabis cultivators and 50 licenses for new adult-use cannabis dispensaries. No one person would be able to hold more than eight dispensary licenses or more than one cultivator license at a time.
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 well into 2024. Licensing could take up to nine months after the law goes into effect, depending on how applications are processed.
The new law also wouldn’t be set in stone. Because it’s a citizen-led statute and not a constitutional amendment, it would be susceptible to repeal or amendment by state lawmakers. That would work just like a normal piece of 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 Statehouse chambers — signaled disfavor for the coalition’s proposal, the Associated Press reported.
Likewise, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has also pushed back against legalized marijuana.
“We’re dealing with a different marijuana. It’s not your grandfather’s marijuana,” the governor told reporters in September.
Watch previous coverage from FOX 8 sister station WCMH in the player below:
What if Issue 2 fails?
If voters reject Issue 2 on Nov. 7, adult-use cannabis would remain illegal in Ohio for recreational use. But it’s not the only path to legalization. There’s a separate legislative push — 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.
It also allows for expungement of minor marijuana possession, use or cultivation charges in the state — something that isn’t included in Issue 2’s statutory language.
The bill was assigned to a House committee the same 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.