Adults 21 and older will soon be allowed to use cannabis under Ohio law, following voters’ approval on Tuesday of a new citizen-initiated statute. But there are still months worth of regulatory work before it will go on sale.
Issue 2, approved by voters in Tuesday’s general election, allows Ohioans 21 years and older to possess and use marijuana, and creates a framework for its commercial regulation. The issue passed, 2,183,734 votes (57%) to 1,649,339 votes (43%), according to unofficial election results from the Ohio Secretary of State.
As with all citizen-initiated statutes approved by a majority vote, it will take effect 30 days after the election, on Dec. 7.
How does the new law work?
The new statute allows Ohioans to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of cannabis extract. They will 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 also levies 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,” according to petitioners.
The statute establishes the Division of Cannabis 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 will lose its license.
- New cannabis shops or testing laboratories won’t be able to go up within 500 feet of prohibited facilities like schools or public playgrounds and parks.
- The statute will allow cannabis cultivators to expand — up to four or fives times their size — to serve a widened customer base.
- Municipalities can approve ordinances prohibiting new cannabis cultivators or dispensaries from setting up shop (though they can’t oust or limit existing marijuana facilities).
- Landlords can prohibit smoking or home-growing at properties they own.
Even though cannabis will soon become legal for adult use, the statute will not prohibit employers from enforcing drug testing policies, or firing employees or turning away applicants for failing drug screens.
And just like alcohol, marijuana will still be illegal to consume in public or in vehicles, just as laws against driving while intoxicated will continue to be enforced.
Below is the full text of the statute to be enacted on Dec. 7, provided by the Ohio Secretary of State:
What’s the next step?
Recreational marijuana won’t be available for purchase until well into 2024, while dispensaries are being licensed — a process that’s expected to take several months after the statute takes effect on Dec. 7.
In the following nine months, the newly created Division of Cannabis Control will be expected to set rules for the program and distribute up to 40 new licenses for smaller cannabis cultivators and up to 50 licenses for new adult-use cannabis dispensaries. Applicants participating in the new law’s Cannabis Social Equity and Jobs Program will be given preference for those new licenses.
Each of the state’s existing medical marijuana facilities — whether they’re a cultivator, processor or tester — will be licensed accordingly for non-medical marijuana. The state’s existing medical marijuana cultivators will also get three licenses to operate dispensaries, or a single license, depending on their size.
No one person will be able to hold more than eight dispensary licenses or more than one cultivator license at a time, under the rule.
Even though marijuana will soon be legal in Ohio — both medically and recreationally — it’s still illegal under federal law. This conflicts with gun ownership laws, according to state experts, since gun owners are not allowed to possess or use marijuana under federal law, as reported by FOX 8 sister station WCMH.
A mandatory gun-purchase form by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives asks gun buyers if they use marijuana or other controlled substances. Anyone who answers untruthfully on ATF Form 4473 could face up to 10 years in federal prison, according to the bureau.
Although Issue 2 enacts a new state statute, the governor is unable to veto as he could legislation approved by lawmakers, since it’s a ballot-approved statute.
But because it’s a statute, that means it’s 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.
Lawmakers have voiced concerns that Issue 2 would make marijuana more accessible to minors and lead to more drug-related crashes, as reported by WCMH.
Other frequently asked questions
The Ohio Department of Commerce on Wednesday launched a new online portal explaining more about the state’s new non-medical marijuana program. Here are some other frequently asked questions answered there:
Will there still be a medical marijuana program?
- Yes. The Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) will continue to be administered by the DCC and MMCP patients and caregivers are encouraged to keep their patient or caregiver card active.
Remaining as a patient within the MMCP ensures the patient is speaking with a physician about their qualifying condition and maintains access to medical marijuana at current operational medical marijuana dispensaries. Additionally, when non-medical marijuana sales begin, MMCP patient purchases are not subject to the 10% excise tax levied on non-medical sales per the approved statute.
Can individuals purchase marijuana in other states and bring it to Ohio?
- No. Federal law prohibits traveling across state lines with marijuana.
Can consumers grow their own marijuana now?
- No. While the statute provides the ability for adults aged 21 and over to grow their own marijuana at home, subject to limitations prescribed in the statute, these provisions do not take effect until the effective date of the new law.
The state legislature can amend the statute at any time which could impact the effective date and provisions of the statute.
What forms of marijuana will be available for purchase at a non-medical cannabis dispensary?
- The initiated statute permits the following forms of non-medical cannabis to be sold at dispensaries: plant material and seeds, live plants, clones (a non-flowering plant cut from a mother plant), extracts, drops, lozenges, oils, tinctures, edibles, patches, smoking or combustible product, vaporization of product, beverages, pills, capsules, suppositories, oral pouches, oral strips, oral and topical sprays, salves, lotions or similar cosmetic products, and inhalers.
Am I allowed to use marijuana in public?
- No. The initiated statute states that a non-medical cannabis consumer who uses non-medical cannabis in public areas is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. Additionally, Ohio’s law prohibiting smoking or vaping in public indoor spaces applies to marijuana as well.
Can I drive after using marijuana?
- No. Per the initiated statute, an individual is prohibited from operating a vehicle, motor vehicle, streetcar, trackless trolley, bike, watercraft, or aircraft while using cannabis or while under the influence of cannabis.
Additionally, an individual is prohibited from smoking, vaporizing, or using any other combustible cannabis product while in a vehicle, motor vehicle, streetcar, trackless trolley, bike, watercraft, or aircraft.