On Thursday, two Ohio Republican lawmakers, Reps. Jamie Callender and Ron Ferguson, filed a bill to legalize marijuana in the state, while activists are nearing completion of their first phase of signature collection for legalizing cannabis.
The two men are moving forward with the introduction of the bill ‘Ohio Adult Use Act’, which would allow adults, who are 21 years or older, to buy and possess up to 50gms of cannabis. It would also allow them to grow up to six plants for personal use, though only three could be mature at a time. Adults would also get the right to gift up to 25gms of marijuana to each other.
The state Department of Commerce would be responsible for regulating the new adult-use marijuana and the existing medical cannabis program and issuing business licenses through a new Division of Marijuana Control.
Adult-use cannabis products would invite a tax of 10%, of which, 50% would go to the state general fund, 25% to fight illicit drug trafficking, and 25% for substance misuse treatment programs.
Under the new regulation, until January 1, 2027, only one retail cannabis dispensary license would be issued in the state for 60,000 residents. After that cut-off date, more licenses would be issued after reviewing the requirement for new dispensaries.
Despite Callender referring to a possibility of getting prior cannabis convictions expunged after the passage of the bill, the legislation does not contain any provision for that or for helping communities impacted under the prohibition of cannabis. However, a spokesperson for the lawmakers did mention that plans were afoot to modify the introduced version if necessary.
There is also one equity-related provision that requires regulators to determine if there has been discrimination in the issuance of marijuana-related licenses, or whether prohibition has contributed to reduced participation of minority communities in the medical marijuana industry in the state. If there has been, these are to be addressed while issuing licenses.
The new legislation would also increase the land allowed for cultivating marijuana and would include a provision to have the state formally endorse a congressional bill to de-schedule marijuana.
Another state legalization bill to be introduced in the Ohio legislature earlier this year, championed by Reps. Casey Weinstein (D) and Terrence Upchurch (D), would likewise, legalize the possession, sale, and cultivation of cannabis by adults, and includes expungement provisions.
A recent survey found that Republican lawmakers in the state are more supportive than Democratic lawmakers of legalizing marijuana, though leaders of the legislature and governor Mike DeWine (R), are not very supportive of legalizing recreational use of cannabis. Callender pointed out that despite this drawback, the bill had supporters from both parties.
During the first phase of their effort, activists must collect 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters to get the legislature to consider legalizing marijuana. Though it has only been a few months since the Ohio officials cleared the signature campaign, activists are hopeful of getting enough signatures by the end of November.
Legislators would then be required to consider legalizing possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for adults 21 years or older; possession of up to 15 grams of concentrates; the right to grow up to six plants for personal use; and the right to have a maximum 12 plants per household.
If the activists succeed in the first phase, the legislature will have four months to adopt the measure, reject it, or adopt an amended version. If the bill is not passed, organizers will need to collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the proposal before voters on the ballot in November 2022.
Though Ohio marijuana activists missed the 2021 ballot due to a verification error on the part of country officials, they have proved that they have enough signatures to place a decriminalization initiative in front of Kent voters.
Another positive response for reform in Ohio is that voters in seven cities approved ballot measures to decriminalize marijuana possession during the last month’s election. Besides, Ohio senators recently filed a bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis program, by allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana to a patient so far as they are reasonably convinced of its healing properties.