All the Dope on Ohio’s Marijuana Ballot Proposal

Ohio's lack of initiative to reform its four-year-old medical marijuana law brought about a new effort to legalize recreational marijuana.

There’s a movement underway to legalize adult-use of recreational marijuana in the state. A proposed amendment could be put before voters as early as November.

The proposed amendment would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by Ohioans over 21 and would allow for growing up to six plants for personal use on one’s own property, with certain limiting conditions.

A petition was submitted to the Ohio attorney general on Monday, laying the groundwork for an initiative that would go before voters in November’s general election. A ballot initiative, such as this, is a process that typically takes several months and tens of thousands of signatures to reach the ballot.

The AG’s office has ten days to certify the issue before additional steps can be taken toward getting the plan in front of voters.

A coalition called Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is behind the adult-use campaign.

The group is represented by Tom Haren, an Ohio attorney and acting spokesman. Haren previously represented medical marijuana licensees.

Haren said that, if passed, the amendment would triple the number of retail marijuana locations that currently exist under Ohio’s medical marijuana program and would allow for an additional 1.5 million square feet of cultivation area for new growers. He said it would add jobs and bring in significant revenue to the state.

The state’s lack of initiative is what brought about the need for reform, said Haren.

“It doesn’t feel that we have a real willing partner in the state to make the needed reforms,” said Haren.

“The state medical board has refused to add new qualifying conditions, despite ample evidence to support the addition of various conditions, like anxiety, autism, opiate use disorder and others.”
Another problem with the current program, Haren said, is the confusion regarding possession.

“It’s very confusing for patients to participate in because of the language regarding the 90-day supply and the confusing way to calculate possession limits when patients are making purchases,” said Haren.

In addition, Haren said there is very restrictive advertising regulations, making it difficult for patients to get information about the program from the businesses that provide the product.

Haren said the adult-use program was designed to ensure that there is sufficient access to new consumers, but in a way that prevents an over-supply of product in the market.

“Current medical marijuana operators could begin selling in the adult-use market, and the Department of Commerce could issue additional adult-use licenses after that point,” said the attorney.

The amendment will direct the department of commerce to conduct necessary studies prior to issuing new licenses so no one is excluded from the first round of adult-use licenses, Haren explained .

The program spokesman said  it would bring in significant tax revenue for the state.

The organization would direct the tax revenue after the general assembly enacts a special tax, explained the attorney.

Haren said what he really likes about the amendment is the way it addresses social equity, and that this has been a large component in legalization efforts.

Fifty percent of generated tax revenue would go directly into the state local government fund, accorinding to Haren. Twenty-five percent would go into a new commission on expungement, social equity, diversity, and so forth that would make recommendations as how to spend that money for social equity purposes.

Haren said 10 percent of tax revenue would go directly to the communities in which the retail sales took place.

If passed, Ohio would join 11 other states that have legalized marijuana for adult use purposes.

Haren said it would provide the level of access to marijuana that Ohioans were promised back in 2016.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of effort, but we’re confident that we’ll get on the ballot in November and when that happens, we’re confident we’re going to win,” said Haren.

Regarding growing of marijuana by private citizens, Haren said there are safeguards surrounding those provisions. “It can’t be grown openly or publicly, and it must be in a locked, enclosed space.”

The Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association has not come out yet in support of the measure, but individually many of the members are supportive, said Haren.

The guidelines set forth in the measure limit possession to under an ounce, with no more than eight grams of concentrate.

Adults could grow up to six plants in an enclosed area, with a limit of three flowering plants.

“Adults should be permitted to responsibly consume marijuana,” said the attorney, who added that the proposal protects Ohioans from irresponsible use and creates new chances for entrepreneurs to enter the industry.

Supporters said the plan does not impact the rights of the state’s medical marijuana patients.

The proposal clarifies it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana or give the substance to minors. The plan also allows private property owners and employers to prohibit or restrict use on premises or by employees.