Ohio voters have given their approval to a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana, marking the 24th state in the U.S. to end prohibition. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) led the campaign for the initiative, which introduces a regulatory framework allowing adults aged 21 and above to purchase, possess, and cultivate cannabis. Despite opposition from the governor and GOP state lawmakers, recent surveys indicated strong support for the measure.
In the words of Tom Haren, spokesperson for the campaign, “Marijuana is no longer a controversial issue.” He added, “Ohioans demonstrated this by passing State Issue 2 in a landslide. Ohioans are being extremely clear on the future they want for our state: adult-use marijuana legal and regulated.”
The approved measure allows for the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and the cultivation of up to six plants (or 12 if two or more adults reside in the same household), effective as of December 7. Officials are tasked with establishing rules to approve licensed retailers within nine months of the effective date.
What does Issue 2 cover?
The Ohio legalization ballot measure encompasses significant provisions. It legalizes the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for individuals aged 21 and older, with an allowance of up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. Additionally, it permits personal cultivation, allowing up to six cannabis plants per individual, with a maximum of 12 plants per household.
The measure also introduces a 10 percent sales tax on cannabis transactions, with the revenue divided for various purposes: 36 percent for social equity and jobs programs, 36 percent for localities permitting adult-use marijuana enterprises, 25 percent for education and substance misuse programs, and 3 percent for administrative costs.
It also establishes a Division of Cannabis Control within the state’s Department of Commerce to oversee licensing and regulation. Existing medical cannabis businesses receive priority in entering the recreational market. Municipalities can opt out of permitting new recreational cannabis companies, but they can’t block existing medical marijuana firms from adding adult-use operations. Employers can maintain policies prohibiting workers from using cannabis for adult use.
The measure also mandates regulators to collaborate with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to provide cannabis addiction services and explore criminal justice reform initiatives, including expungements.
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, stated, “Cannabis legalization is an issue that unites Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.” He emphasized the importance of elected officials respecting the voters’ decision and implementing the measure in accordance with the majority of the electorate’s sentiments.
Matthew Schweich, interim executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), highlighted the success of the cannabis legalization campaign in Ohio, stating that it demonstrates legalization can prevail in any location. He also noted that the people of Ohio will benefit greatly from a cannabis policy grounded in common sense and fairness.
The journey to pass the Ohio measure involved legal battles, legislative attempts, and finally a ballot initiative. Despite challenges, the initiative ultimately succeeded, making Ohio the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
Eliminate the commercial market
SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) EVP Luke Niforatos posted on X their group’s sentiment in the passage of Issue 2 measure. In its X bio, the group says it “advocates for a commonsense, third-way approach to marijuana policy.”
“Ohio passed Issue 2 tonight to legalize marijuana. Right now, the way the numbers look, without Issue 1 on the ballot this likely would have been in the W column for us – but we can’t control the cards we get dealt,” Niforatos said.
Issue 1, which moves for the state to add abortion rights to their constitution, passed with more than 57% of the vote.
In explaining further his point, Niforatos said “if voters were given a choice instead of the industry’s yes/no custom written giveaway, they’d obviously choose something different than what got approved tonight.”
He forged on to sound a call for the legislature “to eliminate the commercial market for marijuana.”
“After spending millions to legalize marijuana in Ohio, the industry and its forces were able to spread enough misinformation about the drug to get it commercialized,” added SAM President Dr. Kevin Sabet. “The data are clear that Big Marijuana is a predatory industry intent on creating a new generation of drug users to fill the pockets of Wall Street investors. They are actively pushing products that medically and scientifically have been demonstrated to cause harm.”
Up to legislation
In the upcoming legislative process, it remains to be seen how lawmakers will handle the initiative. While some Republican elected officials expressed opposition to legalization, others remain divided on the issue. Senate President Matt Huffman indicated a desire to review and potentially modify the initiative, rather than seeking its outright repeal.
As the campaign intensified ahead of the vote, both sides engaged in messaging and get-out-the-vote efforts. The economic analysis suggested that Issue 2 could result in substantial net benefits to the state, and public support for the initiative was consistently strong in pre-election polls.
While the measure has passed, its future in Ohio is not guaranteed, as state law allows for potential modifications or repeal by the legislature. Many Republicans in the legislature and Governor Mike DeWine have expressed opposition to legalization.
In addition to the marijuana measure, Ohio voters also considered a state constitutional amendment regarding reproductive freedom rights. This amendment aimed to protect abortion rights up to the point of viability, which typically falls between 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Information for this briefing was found via The Hill, Marijuana Moment, The Guardian, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.