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

One opportunity to legalize Ohio adult use in 2022 has been pushed back, two legislative attempts have been sidelined, but Ohio cannabis activists say they are doing what they can to expand medical access at the margins as soon as possible, but with mixed progress.

Last week, a court settlement between three Ohio officials and activists for The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) agreed to push a statutory initiative for adult use sales to 2023. A suit filed by CRMLA claimed that House Speaker Bob Cupp, Senate President Matt Huffman, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose colluded to block the forward progress of a proposed adult use cannabis initiative so it would not become a ballot initiative in November 2022.

The settlement declared that the statutory initiative will be brought to the legislature January 3, 2023, the first day of the new legislative session. It would be subject to a legislative vote some time in the next four months. Then, if that fails, CRMLA could gather additional signatures to put it on the ballot in November 2023.

Some in the cannabis industry say they accept the agreement for what it is, like CannaRev Solutions founder Greg May, but believe that more should be done in the meantime.

May believes SB261 is the best chance to get adult use to become a possibility in Ohio, as a kind of back door solution by widely expanding medical use in the state. The measure would let physicians prescribe cannabis for any condition from which a patient could benefit or experience relief from cannabis use. Obviously, current operators are excited about this possibility, since researchers from Ohio State University say the state could see $375 million if adult use sales were legalized.

“From a reality standpoint, the chances to get anything to get anything on the ballot this year is impossible or remote,” May said. “With so much up in the air, 2023 is going to be the best bet for it.”

May said that he was not entirely optimistic about the state’s sales growth, however. May said that the state is still lagging behind other states of its size in terms of available dispensaries. Despite that fact that earlier this month, the state’s medical program announced an expansion of 73 more dispensaries. He believes that more infrastructure and support for the program to be successful.

The 2022 election in Ohio will be for the state, which comes in tandem with GOP Gov. Frank DeWine’s reelection campaign, an open U.S. Senate seat, as well as redistricted Congressional and state legislative districts that are up for grabs. 

Any cannabis legislation would likely stir up progressive voters, a prospect that Speaker Cupp, Senate President Huffman and Secretary LaRose are likely wary of for their GOP compatriot’s election bids. Thus far, Ohio Republican leadership has been staunchly opposed to efforts to legalize adult use cannabis. 

Teresa Daniello, who has been advocating and consulting in the use of medical cannabis in Ohio for 11 years, said that new leadership is needed for advocates. The former president of the TDCANN Institute, a think tank that specializes in the use and application of medical cannabis products, Daniello believes current CRMLA leadership is failing to make legalization a possibility. 

“There’s no transparency, no solid plan put in place,” Daniello said. “If we don’t have people who step up to the plate, then the little guys will get singled out and snuffed out.”

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.