Cannabis advocates in Ohio who want to legalize marijuana say Republican legislative leaders are trying to keep weed off the November ballot, reports The Columbus Dispatch.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in Franklin County, members of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman are trying to circumvent the initiated statute process. According to CRMLA, the GOP leaders want to delay the ballot question until 2023.
The group submitted voter signatures earlier this year to place its adult-use marijuana legalization proposal before the Ohio Legislature.
Why would GOP leaders want to delay a legalization vote? Likely because it would get more left-leaning voters to the polls. And a lot is riding on the midterm elections, including control of both the U.S. House and Senate.
DeWine And Other Ohio Republican Leaders Oppose Marijuana
The measure would allow Ohioans age 21 and older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of Cannabis and grow plants at home. The measure taxes marijuana products at 10%. Revenue goes toward administrative costs, addiction treatment programs, municipalities with dispensaries and a social equity and jobs program.
GOP Gov. Mike DeWine and Republican leaders oppose adult-use marijuana. Huffman previously refused to even bring the proposal up for a vote. Some GOP lawmakers are instead focusing on a bill that would expand Ohio’s medical marijuana program. They hope those changes will dissuade stakeholders from funding the adult-use initiative.
Democrats in the House introduced legislation based on the petition earlier this month, but it’s unlikely to move forward. The Ohio Legislature is firmly in the grip of the weed-hating GOP.
GOP Claims Ballot Question Can’t Be Considered This Year
At issue in the lawsuit is a dispute over the timeline for initiated statute petitions. Ohio law requires petitioners to submit voter signatures in support of the measure at least 10 days before the start of a legislative session. That was Jan. 3 for 2022. The group filed its petition on Dec. 21, court records show.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office determined on Jan. 3 that the group did not have the 132,887 valid signatures needed. Advocates gathered more signatures in the following days. LaRose then approved and sent the petition to state lawmakers Jan. 28.
Lawmakers have four months to act on initiated statutes. That could mean a May 28 deadline for the marijuana proposal. But GOP leaders claimed the petition needed to be approved – not just submitted – ahead of the 2022 legislative session. It cannot, therefore, be considered this year, they claim.
Activists Will Have Until Early July To Get Signatures If They Win Lawsuit
An lawyer with Attorney General Dave Yost‘s office appeared to agree with that assessment, according to emails filed with the lawsuit.
Cannabis activists say LaRose’s Jan. 28 transmission was valid. They want a judge to allow the process to continue this year. If the court rules in their favor, they would have until early July to collect a new round of signatures. That would put the ballot question before voters on Nov. 8.
A spokesman for LaRose declined to comment. Spokesmen for Huffman and Cupp did not immediately respond to questions.