Bipartisan lawmakers in Ohio have recently filed a new bill aimed at legalizing marijuana, presenting the state legislature with an opportunity to take the lead on reform. As activists work towards placing a reform initiative on the November ballot, Representatives Jamie Callender (R) and Casey Weinstein (D) have joined forces to introduce the Ohio Adult Use Act, a comprehensive proposal that combines and refines prior legalization measures previously pursued separately on a partisan basis.
Proposed Provisions: The Ohio Adult Use Act would permit adults aged 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 50 grams of cannabis. Additionally, individuals would be allowed to cultivate up to six plants, with a limit of three mature plants at a time, for personal use. The bill also includes provisions for the expungement of certain prior marijuana-related convictions.
Taxation and Allocation: Under the proposed legislation, marijuana products would be subject to a 10 percent tax. The generated revenue would be allocated to K-12 public education, localities permitting dispensaries, substance misuse treatment programs, law enforcement efforts against illegal drug trafficking, and the state general fund.
Regional Dynamics and Public Opinion: The surrounding states of Illinois and Michigan have already legalized marijuana, with Minnesota poised to follow suit. Ohio legislators recognize the need to catch up with neighboring states and respond to the changing public sentiment in favor of cannabis legalization.
Legislative vs. Ballot Initiative: Ohio lawmakers face a decision between pursuing legalization through the legislative process or allowing voters to decide on the issue in November. A campaign is currently underway to collect the necessary signatures for a ballot initiative, which could provide a significant push for legislative action.
Expansion of the Medical Marijuana Control Program: The proposed bill seeks to expand Ohio’s existing Medical Marijuana Control Program to cover both medical and recreational markets. The program would be renamed the Division of Marijuana Control and fall under the Ohio Department of Commerce.
Ohio lawmakers are at a crossroads, considering the introduction of a new bill to legalize marijuana while also acknowledging the possibility of a ballot initiative. Whether the state chooses legislative action or a voter-driven decision, the prospects of cannabis legalization in Ohio are gaining momentum. The new bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee, indicating that further deliberations and hearings will take place as the issue continues to unfold.