After learning from the Ohio Secretary of State that they were over ten thousand signatures short, an advocacy group seeking to force the state legislature to vote on an adult-use cannabis legalization bill is confident they’ll meet the deadline to gather the remaining signatures.

“We’ve got an army of folks back out in the field to gather the necessary 13,000 signatures,” Tom Haren, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol told Grown In Tuesday. We think this is a minor blip in the process. We are confident that we will gather the number of signatures required and have our proposal in front of the General Assembly.”

[Download the proposed statute]

Ohio’s unique initiated statute process allows petition gatherers to submit a bill from Ohio voters for a vote by the Ohio General Assembly. The legislature is then allowed four months to vote on the proposal. If it fails to act, the petitioners can then seek to put the issue on the November statewide ballot by gathering an additional 133,000 valid signatures.

To meet the required deadline, the group will have to collect the signatures by Jan. 13 from voters who did not previously sign the petition.

“Just Like Alcohol and the advocates pushing it, we don’t see this as a problem,” said Tim Johnson, an industry consultant and cannabis advocate.

According to the Ohio Constitution, petitioners are required to gather a number of valid signatures equal to at least 3% of the total votes cast for the office of governor in the last gubernatorial election. Calculating a result from the 2018 election, petitioners must gather 132,887 valid signatures.

Haren said the Coalition submitted 206,943 signatures in the first round of submissions to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State then sent those signatures to the individual counties from where they were gathered to be validated.

A Monday letter from Secretary of State Frank LaRose to the Coalition, notes that the group submitted 119,825 valid signatures, falling short by 13,062.

[Download Secretary of State’s Letter]

The initiated statute would allow adults ages 21 and older to buy, possess, grow, and consume cannabis.

“It would also authorize the issuance of adult-use cultivation, processing and dispensary licenses, home grow up to six plants per adult, home grow or a maximum of 12 plants per household and would set a 10% tax at the point of sale,” Haren explained in a previous Grown In interview.

Those tax funds would go to a variety of causes, including substance and opioid abuse. Thirty-six percent would go to local governments and 36% would go towards a social equity and jobs program that would provide loans or grants to program participants when applying for licensure under the adult-use program. Funds would also go toward studying and funding judicial and criminal justice and sentencing reforms, expungements, sealing of records.

The direct investment in disproportionately impacted communities is perhaps the most important use of cannabis tax funding, Haren said in a previous interview.

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Deborah Bayliss

Award-winning journalist with a career that started on Chicago’s South Side providing general news coverage. In addition to Illinois, coverage regions include Georgia and Louisiana where I provided city...