Ohio Republican leaders discussing marijuana policy privately, Democrats warn against sneakiness

By: - November 14, 2023 4:55 am

COLUMBUS, OH — AUGUST 26: Governor Mike DeWine addresses a gubernatorial forum hosted by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) in partnership with the Ohio Association of Regional Councils (OARC), August 26, 2022, at the Hilton Columbus Downtown, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal / Republish photo only with original story)

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine gave more insight into what changes Ohio Statehouse leaders want to make to the newly passed recreational marijuana law, much to Democrats’ chagrin.

Ohio voters spoke and passed Issue 2, the proposal to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, decisively.

“We have an obligation I believe, to carry that out,” DeWine said Monday.

Just because DeWine has said two weeks in a row that it is important to accept the will of the people doesn’t mean that their will can’t be edited by Statehouse leaders.

DeWine met Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) for breakfast Monday to discuss changes they want to make to the law.

“I don’t think any of the things that I have suggested that we do really fly in the face of the spirit of what people were voting for,” DeWine said.

DeWine has three main priorities to address: guardrails for children, tax policy and safety on the roads.

DeWine wants to prevent weed exposure in kids by changing where people can smoke, limiting access to products like edibles and putting guidelines around advertising.

The leaders also want to change tax policy by moving sales tax from a social equity program to local law enforcement. This could then help with preventing high drivers.

“We have to administer it, we have to make sure it actually does in fact work, we have to make sure it’s a fair tax,” the governor said.

And while Republican leaders pick and choose what they want, Democrats like state Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) feel the GOP is leaving them and the Ohioans out of the conversation.

“It’s a slap in the face to Ohio voters,” Weinstein said. “What I really don’t like and that I see a lot at the Statehouse is decisions being made behind closed doors. Well, Ohio voters have earned a seat at the table.”

Voters chose 57-43% that they wanted the recreational marijuana package that was being sold by the advocates. There is room for clarifying the law, but he doesn’t trust the Republicans to listen to the people since they don’t have the best track record for doing so (See: redistricting reform, August special election).

Weinstein has put forward marijuana legalization bills and has no sympathy toward the rushed Republicans.

“Hopefully this teaches them a lesson that bills that have overwhelming bipartisan support deserve hearings,” he said, noting that many of the concerns that DeWine has would have been solved and dealt with under Statehouse legislation.

He also doesn’t trust the GOP not to completely change the passed law.

“I fear that could happen now, especially given the rushed timeline that the governor has put on the legislature here,” the Democrat said.

DeWine wants the lawmakers to come to an agreement by the effective date — because once the weed is legal and citizens are abiding by a set of laws…

“How do you put the genie back in the bottle?” DeWine asked.

With or without the changes, the law will go into effect on Dec. 7.

This article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.