Two Democratic Ohio lawmakers have drafted a new bill that would legalize and regulate sales for both personal and commercial cultivation of Cannabis while keeping the state’s current medical marijuana program intact.
Under the bill, those medical businesses could get a license to sell recreational marijuana as well.
Those with nonviolent, low-level marijuana convictions could have their records sealed. This decriminalization could fill jobs in Ohio while giving back resources to law enforcement, reports News 5 Cleveland.
Democratic state Reps. Casey Weinstein of Hudson and Terrence Upchurch of Cleveland said they drafted the bill to legalize cultivation – personal and commercial – and to regulate sales. It would also allow people previously convicted of low-level marijuana crimes to have their records sealed.
“We’re seeing there are dramatic economic benefits, there are medical benefits and there’s a strong criminal justice avenue here so we can focus law enforcement on violent crime,” Weinstein said, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Right now the reality is if Ohio doesn’t act, we are falling behind,” Weinstein said.
Legislative Cosponsors Wanted
Weinstein and Upchurch are looking for cosponsors on the comprehensive bill It is the first proposed in Ohio to set up a regulated market for selling marijuana, according to the Enquirer.
The lawmakers circulated a co-sponsorship memo to colleagues on Thursday. By doing so, they hope to shore up support for the effort in advance of its formal introduction, reports Marijuana Moment.
“The people are ready and it’s so beneficial in terms of revenues that we can drive back into communities and improve lives,” Weinstein said. ”For Ohioans, it just made a lot of sense.”
Flawed Ohio Amendment Failed Six Years Ago
Six years ago, 64% of Ohioans voted against a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana. Only 10 sites statewide, owned by certain investors, would have had cultivation rights under that plan. Many of those investors were the same people financially backing the amendment. (They would have likely become quite wealthy if the scheme had worked.)
“Unfortunately, it ended up with a really flawed monopolistic type of approach that excluded a lot of Ohio from the benefits,” Weinstein said.
But recreational Cannabis is now legal in 19 states.
“What I hope this does is add to the critical mass nationally that will compel the federal government to act,” Weinstein said.
Republican Governor Opposes
In order for the proposal to pass in Ohio, state Democrats need to enlist Republican support.
Additionally, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is still, for some unfathomable reason, opposed to legalization. A spokesman for the governor on Thursday confirmed his anti-legalization position.
The bill faces a steep climb in a GOP-dominated Legislature. Just five years ago, lawmakers were barely able to legalize a highly-regulated medical marijuana program.
But when it comes to bipartisanship, Weinstein said, the data is what matters. “And time and time again, it shows that Ohioans want this change.”
What’s In The Ohio Legalization Bill?
The full text of the bill hasn’t been released. But Democratic lawmakers expect to formally file the legislation in the next few days once certain details are finalized.
Under the bill, adults 21 and older could buy and possess up to 5 ounces of marijuana at a time and grow up to 12 mature plants for personal use, Weinstein said. Cities and villages could limit the type or number of Cannabis businesses allowed locally.
The bill would legalize possession of up to five ounces of marijuana for adults 21 and older and allow them to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use. Old convictions for activities made legal under the measure would be expunged.
Modeled On Michigan
Michigan’s Cannabis market was the model for the bill, Weinstein said. The bill would keep Ohio’s medical marijuana program, approved in 2016 and launched in 2019, intact. Medical marijuana businesses could get licensed on the recreational side, too. The Ohio Department of Commerce would oversee the industry.
Cannabis products would have a 10% excise tax, in addition to state and local sales tax. Those proceeds would go primarily to education, road and bridge repair and to local governments. Ohio’s marijuana tax rate would be in line with Michigan and would be lower than Illinois, Colorado and other states.
For two years, up to $20 million of each year’s proceeds would go to research for treating medical conditions of veterans with medical Cannabis and preventing veteran suicide. And the legalization bill would also have a social equity component. The goal of that would be to encourage people of color and other traditionally disadvantaged individuals to participate in the industry, Weinstein said.
Cincinnati Mayor Backs The Plan
According to Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, it’s time for lawmakers to get the job done.
Cranley, who announced earlier this year that he is running for governor, tweeted Thursday afternoon “It’s time we legalize marijuana in Ohio,” reports WLWT.
“If we legalized marijuana we could invest that tax revenue right back into our communities,” Cranley said. “We could rebuild our roads and fund public education. We could expand health care for our communities.”