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Ohio Group: If Legislature Doesn’t Legalize, Let People Vote

An Ohio group has a plan for Cannabis legalization: Give the Legislature a chance to do it, then take it to the people

Green Health Docs

An Ohio group has a new plan for Cannabis legalization. They want to give the Legislature a chance to do the right thing, then take it to the people if necessary.

Unlike the failed 2015 legalization effort, they’re not going to try to put it in the state Constitution, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer. Instead, they’ve drafted a state law and plan to put it before lawmakers first before taking it to the voters.

“We think we have a proposal here that checks all the boxes,” said Cleveland-area cannabis attorney Tom Haren. He’s the spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Earlier this year, CTRMLA had planned another drive for a Constitutional amendment. But is now opting for a statute change, reports WKSU.

The signature threshold is also much lower for an initiated statute as well. That would also lower the potential cost of the campaign.

Supporters Turn In Initial 1,000 Signatures

Supporters of the measure turned in an initial batch of more than 1,000 signatures and proposed language to the Ohio attorney general’s office on Tuesday.

The AG has 10 days to review the summary appearing on petitions to certify it is “fair and truthful.”

Supporters will eventually have to collect 132,887 signatures of registered Ohio voters to put the measure before the Legislature.

Lawmakers will then have four months to pass as-is, reject, or pass an amended version of the statute. If they don’t pass the bill, supporters can collect another 132,887 signatures. That would place it on a statewide ballot, probably in November 2022.

What The Ohio Legalization Bill Would Do

The proposal would allow adult Ohioans to buy and possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis and 15 grams of concentrates. Adults could also grow up to six plants in secure spaces at home, according to a draft version.

A 10% tax would fund substance abuse and addiction services, along with operations for the medical marijuana program. Local governments could prohibit or limit Cannabis businesses from locating in their communities.

The language grandfathers-in the existing medical marijuana program. It allows the existing 34 cultivators, 47 processors and 58 dispensaries to obtain recreational licenses almost exclusively for the first two years. It isn’t surprising, then, that Ohio’s medical marijuana businesses largely support the change.

The bill establishes 40 new cultivation licenses and 50 additional dispensary licenses for “social equity” applicants. These are applicants who are disadvantaged economically, and belong to a minority or are affected by marijuana charges.

The proposed language is on the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol webpage. 

2.5 Ounces, Six Plants Allowed

The proposed law that CTRMLA is pushing would legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for adults. Adults could also have up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. Individuals could grow up to six plants for personal use, with a maximum 12 plants per household.

Under the proposal, a Division of Cannabis Control would be established under the state Department of Commerce. It would have authority to “license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult use cannabis operators, adult use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed.”

The measure gives current medical cannabis businesses a head start in the recreational market. Regulators would begin issuing adult-use licenses to qualified applicants who operate existing medical operations within nine months of enactment.

Haren said that would allow the recreational side to get up and running quickly and prevent over-saturation in the market. He noted the bill doesn’t set any hard caps on the number of licenses awarded. State regulators with the Ohio Department of Commerce would decide whether to offer more licenses to meet demand.

“You need to strike the right balance between providing access to Ohio consumers while preventing diversion and oversupply,” Haren said.

Backers Include Ohio Medical Marijuana Merchants

It’s a ”notable departure” from a failed 2015 reform initiative. That one faced criticism from advocates. It featured an “oligopolistic model that would’ve granted exclusive control over cannabis production to the very funders who paid to put the measure on the ballot,” notes Marijuana Moment.

Haren wouldn’t name individual backers, but he said the language was reviewed by national experts and advocacy groups. He added the measure has the support of “a broad coalition.”

Backers, as mentioned, are certain to include current participants in Ohio’s medical Cannabis industry. “Several” such businesses are backing the measure, reports Marijuana Moment.

Haren said he thinks his group’s proposal will pass the Legislature and not have to go to the ballot. That’s because the Democrats now control DC. Accordingly, there’s talk at the federal level of no longer classifying marijuana as a controlled substance. Haren said that would trickle down to Ohio, leaving the state without a regulatory structure.

Earlier this month, two Democratic lawmakers introduced a legalization bill into the Republican-controlled Ohio Legislature.

Spokespeople for the Ohio House GOP and Senate GOP did not return calls seeking comment.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for Gov. Mike DeWine confirmed the GOP governor does not support legalization.

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