Advocates in Ohio are renewing their push to get an adult-use cannabis legalization measure before voters after a lawsuit suspended their 2022 campaign.
The initiative, backed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has been cleared for signature gathering, and the campaign has about eight weeks to collect roughly 130,000 signatures to qualify the initiated statute for the November 2023 ballot, according to a Cleveland.com report.
“We expect that we’ll be able to do it,” Tom Haren, an attorney working on the campaign, told the news outlet. “We’ll have staff get ready. Our intention is to give Ohio voters an opportunity to weigh in if the General Assembly continues to ignore them.”
The proposal would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and consume cannabis, and would create a new state agency, the Division of Cannabis Control, to regulate cannabis in the state.
The initiated statute would levy a 10% sales tax on adult-use cannabis, and the resulting tax revenue would be distributed among several entities, including municipalities that host cannabis businesses, a substance abuse and addiction fund, and a social equity fund to support communities that have been adversely affected by prohibition.
In December 2021, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 206,000 signatures to get its initiated statute before the Ohio General Assembly, which would have had four months to consider the proposal. If legislators opted not to pass the bill as is, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol had the option to collect additional signatures to present the issue to voters on the state’s 2022 ballot.
In early January, elections officials rejected more than 87,000 of the signatures that the campaign submitted, bringing the effort short of its mark. Undeterred, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted additional signatures weeks later and the Ohio Secretary of State’s office certified the initiative petition, transmitting the proposal to the General Assembly.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, refused to take up the proposal, but State Reps. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, and Terrance Upchurch, D-Cleveland, formally introduced the campaign’s initiated statute in April, despite the pair of lawmakers already sponsoring separate adult-use legislation in the General Assembly.
Nevertheless, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and legislative leaders went to court soon after over the state-mandated deadlines to get an initiated statute on the ballot.
The resulting settlement mandates that the adult-use legalization proposal must be presented to the General Assembly in January. Lawmakers will then have four months to pass the legislation, but the campaign is already working to gather the signatures required to send the issue to voters next year.
Meanwhile, a recent poll conducted by Spectrum News in partnership with the Siena College Research Institute revealed that the majority of Ohioans support adult-use cannabis legalization, with 60% of those surveyed in favor and 37% in opposition.