The Ohio State Capitol in Columbus. Credit: Jim Bowen / Flickr

Ohio voters may have an opportunity to support a proposal to legalize adult-use marijuana in the state by way of The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s signature collection effort to place a referendum question on the 2022 ballot.

Titled “An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis,” the statute’s approval greenlights the group’s signature collection efforts. Their goal is to collect the necessary 132,887 registered voter signatures to submit the proposed law to the state legislature.

If successful, the law would allow adults ages 21 and older to buy, possess, grow, and use marijuana.

[Read the proposed ballot initiative language]

The Coalition’s first petition attempt for approval was met with rejection after Ohio Attorney General David Yost determined language in the petition summary was not a “fair and truthful representation of the proposed statute” and that it did explain the extent of the rule making authority that would govern adult-use cannabis.

Following Yost’s initial Aug. 5 rejection, the petition was later approved Aug. 20 as a single issue by the Ohio Ballot Board, a panel of legislative appointees led by Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

The petition process allows for several attempts to get the measure on the ballot, something that’s not done in every state. According to submitted documents, the group’s process is managed by political consulting firm Advanced Micro Targeting.

Signatures will have to come from voters in at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties and, for each of those counties, the number must equal at least 1.5% of the vote cast in the last gubernatorial election which amounts to 67,453 and must be filed with the Secretary of State no less than 10 days prior to the commencement of any session of the Ohio General Assembly. 

The first regular session of each general assembly convenes the first Monday of January in the odd-numbered year, or on the succeeding day if the first Monday of January is a legal holiday, and in a second regular session on the same date of the following year. The second regular session of each general assembly is a continuum of the first regular session.

If the petition is verified and has sufficient signatures, the Secretary of State will then send the proposed law to the General Assembly as soon as it convenes. The General Assembly will have four months to act on the proposed law. If the proposed law is passed by the General Assembly, either as petitioned for or in an amended form, it will be subject to the referendum.

If the General Assembly does not pass the proposed law, or passes it in an amended form, or takes no action at all after four months, then a supplemental petition can be circulated by petitioners to submit the proposed law to voters at the next general election.

What’s included in the proposal?

The proposal includes a 10% tax on marijuana sales that would go toward a social equity jobs fund, addiction treatment, and community support for areas with marijuana businesses.

Ohio’s medical marijuana businesses, several of which are backing the plan, could automatically get recreational marijuana licenses if the law passes. For others, a nine-month wait is required before an adult use license can be obtained.

Additionally, existing medical licenses holders will have the ability to relocate. Most states require licensees to go through an approval process to relocate. 

Municipalities can also opt-out within 120 days of enactment, and individuals can grow up to 6 plants per person, no more than 12 per residence.

Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016 and implemented it in 2019. Earlier this year, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy voted to make 73 dispensary licenses available in addition to the 52 dispensaries currently operating. 

While Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has repeatedly expressed opposition to legalizing marijuana, two Republican lawmakers, State Reps. Jamie Callender and Ron Ferguson announced their support Oct. 14 with Callender calling for “quick action.”

“Across Ohio and America, there is strong public support for responsible laws allowing those 21 and over to legally purchase and use marijuana and marijuana products,” Callender stated in a news release. “It’s time that we think seriously about where our state will fit in this growing market and position ourselves for the best possible outcome. This proposal starts that conversation.”

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.