Ohio state Reps. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, and Terrence Upchurch, D-Cleveland, are already sponsoring an adult-use legalization bill, but that didn’t stop them from filing similar legislation on behalf of those whom they represent.
The northeast Ohio Democratic duo filed bill language on April 20 to formally introduce the initiated statute sponsored by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), a citizen-led effort that met a 132,877-signature threshold to put its petition before state lawmakers, the Ohio Secretary of State announced on Jan. 28.
The coalition’s proposed statute seeks to allow adults 21 and older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis (or 15 grams of extract) and grow up to six plants per person or 12 plants per household. In addition, the proposal aims to impose a 10% tax on cannabis sales, with revenue going toward state costs to run a legalized program; substance abuse and addiction treatment programs; supporting municipalities with dispensaries; and social equity and jobs programs.
If the General Assembly fails to act and pass the statute—or an amended version of the language proposed—within four months, as determined under the Ohio Constitution, then the coalition has the option to double its signature collection (roughly 266,000 total) by early July to put the proposal directly to the voters in November.
“Marijuana legalization is overdue in Ohio,” Weinstein said in a press release to announce the 4/20 filing. “The hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters who signed this petition—and millions more who support legalization statewide—asked for action from our Legislature. Instead, GOP leaders have ignored them.”
Specifically, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, told reporters Feb. 9 (less than two weeks after the Ohio Secretary validated the signatures) that he won’t act on calendaring the CRMLA citizen proposal to legalize adult-use cannabis for floor debate in his chamber.
“I don’t want anybody to misunderstand my position,” Huffman said. “I’m not going to bring it to the Senate floor. And if that means people want to go put it on the ballot, have at it.”
Republicans hold a 25-8 majority in the Ohio Senate and a 64-35 majority in the House. Seventeen senators could sign a discharge petition to force the issue be heard on the floor, going against Huffman’s wishes, but at least nine Republican senators would have to be on board.
Upchurch believes that his fellow lawmakers should consider the citizen-led petition, he said in the April 20 press release.
“Legalizing cannabis would create good-paying jobs and generate significant revenue for our state,” he said. “We must listen to the overwhelming support from voters and take action to finally legalize cannabis in Ohio.”
Upchurch and Weinstein are also sponsoring their own adult-use cannabis legalization bill, House Bill 328, which they introduced in July 2021. Their legislation also intends to levy a 10% excise tax on cannabis sales, as well as allow adults 21 and older to buy and possess up to 5 ounces of cannabis and grow up to 12 mature plants for personal use.
The excise tax revenue generated under their proposal would be distributed in part to primary and secondary (K-12) education, for the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, and up to $20 million annually for two years would be used for clinical trials researching the efficacy of cannabis in treating the medical conditions of veterans and preventing veteran suicide.
Should state lawmakers choose not to act on the CRMLA citizen proposal, the coalition would face another financial lift to double its valid signature total. The group spent roughly $1.1 million during the first round of its signature-gathering effort, Ohio Capital Journal reported. Cannabis advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project contributed nearly $700,000 toward that amount.
The last time an adult-use cannabis proposal was put before Ohio voters in November 2015, they rejected the issue with 63.6% casting ballots against it.
More than six years have passed without another adult-use ballot measure in the state.