COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Lawmakers in Ohio are taking action to amend the voter-approved initiative legalizing recreational marijuana before the state begins completing the licensing processes for nonmedical cannabis.
Issue 2 passed on Tuesday’s ballot to allow adult-use sale, purchase and possession of cannabis for Ohioans who are 21 and older. The measure, effective on Dec. 7, permits adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrate and grow up to six plants at home.
“Ohioans spoke loud, they spoke clear, they want marijuana regulated like alcohol,” said Tom Haren, spokesperson for pro-Issue 2 group Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “I think that every single voter of Ohio has a right to expect that elected officials will implement and respect the will of voters.”
However, recreational marijuana is not immediately available to purchase in dispensaries, and the first sales cannot occur until the newly established Division of Cannabis Control completes the rulemaking and licensing processes. After the Dec. 7 effective date, the division has nine months to outline the criteria for certifying facilities.
Unlike the abortion rights constitutional amendment that also passed, Issue 2 appeared on the ballot as an initiated statue — giving state lawmakers the final word. The governor does not have the authority to veto a proposal made law via the ballot, according to the Ohio Constitution, but legislators can still propose and pass modifications to the new law.
So, legislator’s amendments to Issue 2 could impact the Dec. 7 effective date, delaying the buying and selling of recreational marijuana in Ohio.
Gov. Mike DeWine said on Thursday he thinks Ohio legislators should adjust Issue 2 to address youth safety concerns, a possible increase in drivers under the influence and to limit public marijuana smoke exposure. While Issue 2 prohibits people from smoking marijuana in public areas, the measure allows “any public place” and property owners to decide whether to allow marijuana use.
“We’ve also got to live up to our responsibility to all the people in the state of Ohio, whether they voted for it or voted against it,” DeWine said. “That we do this in a very responsible way, we do it in a respectful way. And we do it, frankly, the Ohio way.”
Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) told NBC4 he also supports amending Issue 2 to reexamine how recreational marijuana will be taxed. The measure states those in Ohio who purchase cannabis will pay a 10% excise tax, the same rate as Michigan and Illinois, plus a 5.75% state tax, in addition to a local tax ranging from 0.25% to 2.25%. Some of the tax revenue will go toward equity and jobs programs, according to the initiative’s text.
“We need to take quick action on it and examine how it can be improved on,” Merrin said. “I think you are probably going to see an effort to take money and get it into more of the general revenue fund where I think that’s where it needs to go or try to change the allocation there.”
DeWine said he is meeting with Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) on Monday to begin ironing out details before Issue 2 is set to go effect on Dec. 7.