Ohio House Dem wants to eliminate cannabis prohibitions

    Stock photo of cannabis from Getty Images.

    State Representative Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland, announced legislation Friday that would repeal criminal prohibitions for possession and trafficking of cannabis, and vacate cannabis possession criminal sentences, expunging such offenses from the record.

    “It is about time we stop criminalizing a plant (Cannabis),” Brent said. “Our police should be focusing their time and resources on more serious crimes. This is also an opportunity to strengthen our workforce with more tax-paying contributors, instead of keeping people from a job because of a background check.”

    In a release Friday, Brent said a separate bill would authorize the use of medical cannabis for autism spectrum disorder.

    Ohio already has a relatively new Medical Marijuana Control Program, allowing for residents to consume marijuana if diagnosed with a state-approved medical condition. Autism spectrum disorder is currently not among the conditions. The State Medical Board of Ohio voted against including autism as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in September. The board is reportedly now again considering including autism spectrum disorder, however.

    Brent’s effort comes five years after Ohio voters rejected an earlier constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana. That 2015 plan known as ResponsibleOhio would have allowed a narrow group of 10 investor-owned facilities to grow and process marijuana. The amendment failed, 64 to 36 percent, with a wide coalition of business, political and law enforcement groups opposing the effort. 

    Even among those open to legalized marijuana in Ohio, critics viewed the stated limit on growing facilities as being a “marijuana monopoly.”

    Brent’s two bills now await bill numbers and committee assignments. They face uncertain prospects with Republican-controlled Ohio House and Senate supermajorities and a Republican governor who has expressed disagreement with legalizing cannabis.

    David C. DeWitt
    David C. DeWitt is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience covering Ohio politics and policy. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS and Plunderbund.com covering topics such as education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, government, business, labor, energy, environment and social issues. His work has also appeared in Government Executive, the Columbus Dispatch, Girlfriends magazine, Bleacher Report and the Ashtabula Star Beacon, among others.