COLUMBUS, Ohio — APRIL 20: Samantha Farrell with Sensible Movement Coalition holds a flag depicting a cannabis leaf at a rally in support of legalized marijuana, April 20, 2023, outside the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)
Ohioans 21 and older would be able to cultivate, purchase and possess marijuana if a bipartisan bill passes in the Ohio Statehouse.
State Reps. Jamie Callender, R-Concord, and Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, introduced House Bill 168 — also known as the Ohio Adult Use Act — earlier this month.
The bill would also allow conviction records for prior cultivation and possession offenses to be expunged.
“Adult-use is good for our economy, good for our justice system, and the right thing to do,” Weinstein said in a news release. “Ohioans are ready to legalize cannabis.”
HB 168 would put a 10% sales tax on adult-use cannabis products. Researchers at Ohio State University estimate the potential annual tax revenue generated from adult-use cannabis in Ohio ranges from $276 million to $374 million in year five of an operational adult-use cannabis market.
“It opens up a route for people to have access to cannabis without punishment, without losing their jobs, without losing child custody,” said Tim Johnson, CEO of Cannabis Safety First.
The bill would rename the Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program to the Division of Marijuana Control and it would be in charge of regulating the medical marijuana and adult-use programs. The division would be housed within the Ohio Department of Commerce.
“Through the expansion of Ohio’s successful Medical Marijuana program to all Ohioans, we will not only be building upon best practices from around the country but utilizing the lessons learned here in Ohio,” Callender said in a news release.
Twenty-two states, including Michigan, and Washington, D.C. have legalized the recreational use of and sale of cannabis.
“It’s time for Ohio to act on this before we fall too much further behind our neighbors,” Weinstein said.
Legalizing marijuana would free up the judicial system from cannabis arrests and possession charges, Johnson said.
“It will allow law enforcement to centralize their resources around more harmful drugs and other priority incidents as far as criminal activity and so forth in their communities,” he said.
The expungement piece of the bill would help people go through a quicker process to get their possession or trafficking charges erased.
“The whole principle behind all of this is … to open up our workforce pool … to allow people to return to being able to purchase homes, go to school, receive grants, have custody rights, all of that,” Johnson said.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 288, a massive criminal justice reform bill, into law earlier this year and it went into effect in April.
One of the things the bill does is allow prosecutors to expunge low-level marijuana possession offenses. It also prevents arrests and convictions for possessing marijuana paraphernalia from appearing in Ohio’s criminal records.
Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol is collecting petition signatures to get a similar proposal on November’s ballot. The coalition needs to get 124,000 signatures from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties by the July 5 deadline.
Their proposal would legalize and regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sale of marijuana to Ohioans 21 and up. Ohioans 21 and older could home grow with a limit of six plants per person and 12 plants per residence, and it would impose a 10% tax at the point of sale for each transaction.
The proposal was submitted by citizens through an initiated statute, so it is not an amendment to the state’s constitution. Ohio’s Aug. 8 special election will ask voters if the state constitution should be harder to amend.
Pricilla Harris, executive director of the Sensible Movement Coalition, is excited about the legislation to legalize marijuana, but said advocates favor the ballot proposal.
The ballot proposal has more protections for possession limits — 2.5 ounces compared to the bill’s 50 grams.
“We are still looking for patient protection, workforce protection for employers,” Harris said. “Unfortunately, we are just kind of lacking in that area when it comes to the bill.”
Between legislation and the ballot initiative, marijuana activists are confident weed will soon be legalized in Ohio.
“Either way you’re gonna see something happen this year in Ohio,” Johnson said.
Harris said it’s exciting to think about marijuana potentially being legalized.
“We would no longer be putting collateral damage on the residents of Ohio that are choosing cannabis as their medicine or their personal use,” she said.
Senate Bill 9
Senate Bill 9 — introduced by State Sens. Stephen Huffman, R-Tipp City, and Kirk Schuring, R-Canton — would expand Ohio’s medical marijuana program by adding more permissible forms of medical marijuana and adding to the list treatments for medical conditions.
It would also create a 13-member Medical Marijuana Oversight Commission that would oversee the Division of Marijuana Control within the Department of Commerce to oversee Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Program.
Currently, the Ohio Department of Commerce, the State Medical Board of Ohio, and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy oversee regulation and licensing in the marijuana program.
There are 355,368 patients that have registered for medical marijuana and 168,741 have both an active registration and an active recommendation as of March, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.
Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.
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