By the end of the month, an Ohio adult-use cannabis ballot initiative proposal is expected to obtain enough signatures to force the state legislature to take a vote on legalizing adult-use.
“We are getting close to wrapping it up and should be submitting signatures sometime in the coming days to the Ohio Secretary of State,” said Thomas Haren, a Cleveland-based attorney with Franz Ward, and spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s goal for the initiated statute, “An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis,” is to collect 132,887 valid registered voter signatures to submit the proposed law to the state legislature for a vote.
“We’ve proposed an initiated statute as opposed to a constitutional amendment,” Haren explained. “Because it’s an initiated statute, it has to be enacted by the Ohio General Assembly.”
The initiated statute process allows the group to submit a bill from Ohio voters for a vote with the legislature. The legislature is then provided four months to adopt the proposal.
If successful, the law would allow adults ages 21 and older to buy, possess, grow, and consume cannabis.
“We’re very pleased at how the process has been going,” Haren said. “We’re actually right on track for where we wanted to be. So, we’re happy with that. We had sort of a timeline that we set out and I think we’re right along that timeline.”
Haren and the Coalition will submit the full batch of signatures to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will then send those signatures to the individual counties from where they were gathered to be validated.
“The County Boards of Election will go through and validate the signatures to ensure we’ve exceeded the 132,887 valid signature requirement,” Haren said. “Once that happens, our proposal will be in front of the Ohio General Assembly and they will have four months to pass it.
The initiated statute allows anyone 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis or 15 grams of extract.
“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 further.
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 percent would go towards a social equity and jobs program that would do a lot of great things like provide loans or grants to participants in the program when applying for licensure under the adult-use program,” Haren said. “It would also go toward the study and funding of judicial and criminal justice and sentencing reforms, expungements, sealing of records.
The direct investment in disproportionately impacted communities, Haren added, is perhaps the most important use of cannabis tax funding.
The Coalition’s first petition attempt 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.
Haren and the Coalition view the proposal effort as a bipartisan issue.
“We think polling across the country has been showing that for several years,” he added. “We’ll see what happens. We think it’s the right time. We think it’s the right proposal. We think it’s well-thought out and is good policy.”
Meanwhile, a new GOP proposal that would consolidate cannabis oversight from three agencies into a new Division of Marijuana Control has advanced from the House to the Senate.“Let’s hope the legislators don’t change much,” Don Keeney, executive director of NORML Appalachia of Ohio said. “Things are moving now that Ohio SB261 passed another hearing on Wednesday moving closer to a floor vote.”