In a surprising move, an Ohio Senate committee has given initial approval to a newly unveiled proposal that would significantly alter the state’s voter-approved marijuana legalization law set to take effect later this week. The GOP-controlled chamber is advancing legislation that not only introduces several provisions previewed by Republican leaders in recent weeks but goes further, sparking concerns among advocates and Democratic lawmakers.
The proposed amendments include the elimination of the home grow option for adults, criminalization of the use and possession of marijuana obtained outside of licensed retailers, reduction of the possession limit, a hike in the sales tax on cannabis, and a shift of funding away from social equity programs toward law enforcement.
Additional changes involve THC limits, public consumption rules, and alterations to hemp-related regulations, raising alarm among stakeholders who believe these amendments would “devastate” the market.
During a 30-minute hearing on Monday, the Senate General Government Committee voted 4-1 to attach the cannabis legislation to an unrelated House-passed bill on alcohol regulations. Senate President Matt Huffman (R) aims to pass the legislation on the floor as early as Wednesday, introducing changes before the scheduled legalization of possession and home cultivation on Thursday.
Last month, Ohio voters gave their approval to a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana, marking the 24th state in the U.S. to end prohibition.
Advocates and Democratic lawmakers have expressed frustration with the push to revise the voter-initiated statute, with Republicans arguing that voters supported the principle of legalization without necessarily endorsing specific policies. However, the proposed elimination of home cultivation is expected to face significant pushback, potentially complicating the legislative process.
The amendments would also redirect marijuana tax revenue away from the initially approved allocation, which included funding for social equity and jobs programs, localities allowing adult-use marijuana enterprises, education and substance misuse programs, and administrative costs. The revised bill would allocate 30 percent of revenue to law enforcement training, 15 percent to substance misuse treatment, 10 percent to a safe driving initiative, and the remainder to the state general fund.
The legislation would cut the possession limit for adults, increase the excise tax rate on marijuana sales, and introduce criminal penalties for public consumption. Additionally, it would restrict marijuana advertising, reduce the cap on cannabis dispensaries, and allow localities to ban marijuana cultivators within their borders.
Hemp industry stakeholders are also expressing concern, particularly about provisions that would prohibit the sale of full-spectrum hemp products and impose strict THC limits on non-ingestible hemp items.
Despite claims that the proposed changes aim to eliminate the black market and ensure safe marijuana products for consumers, critics argue that the amendments disregard the voters’ intent and could potentially result in harsher penalties than before the legalization initiative.
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