Ohio Voters Approve Recreational Marijuana, Marking a Milestone in State Cannabis Legalization

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Ohio Voters Approve Recreational Marijuana, Marking a Milestone in State Cannabis Legalization

in a landmark decision, Ohio voters have approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana,

making the state the 24th in the nation to allow adult cannabis use for non-medical purposes. The passage of Issue 2 comes after years of debate and defiance of Republican legislative leaders who failed to pass the proposed law.

"Marijuana is no longer a controversial issue," said Tom Haren, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "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."

Under the new law, adults aged 21 and over will be allowed to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and grow plants at home. A 10% tax will be imposed on purchases, with the revenue designated for administrative costs, addiction treatment, municipalities with dispensaries, and social equity and job programs supporting the industry itself.

However, the election's outcome represents a blow to GOP lawmakers, Republican Governor Mike DeWine, and various business and manufacturing organizations who were concerned about its potential impact on workplace and traffic safety.

As a citizen-initiated statute, the law is subject to change. Republicans who remain opposed to it in the Legislature have the option to make adjustments to the law or even attempt to repeal it, although the political stakes are higher now that voters have approved it.

Among the concerns raised by opponents that lawmakers may revisit is the measure's tax structure, which earmarks none of the earnings for Ohio counties that administer social services programs directed at drug use, addiction, and other related issues that could potentially rise due to Issue 2's passage.

"This fight is not over," said Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action, in a statement. He called on state lawmakers to eliminate provisions of Issue 2 that allow for commercial sales, advertising, and production, at a minimum.

Republican Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman also indicated that lawmakers may reconsider "questionable language" regarding limits on THC, the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties.

"This statute was written by the marijuana industry and should not be treated as a cash grab for their cash crop at the expense of a state trying to emerge from the opioid epidemic," he said in a statement.

For the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, voter approval marked the culmination of a years-long fight to turn the proposal into law.

The journey began when GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose submitted petitions to the Ohio General Assembly on behalf of the coalition in January 2022, triggering a four-month countdown for lawmakers to act. However, Republican legislative leaders failed to take action, asserting that the group's petitions arrived too late for the 2022 ballots. A lawsuit and settlement followed, leading to an agreement to wait until this year for the vote.

Scott Milburn, spokesperson for the opposition campaign Protect Ohio Workers and Families, expressed disappointment with the election's result and mentioned that the debate would now shift to the Statehouse.

"This ticking time bomb crafted in secret by a Columbus law firm will now be cracked open by the Legislature in the full light of day so they can defuse it in an open, public process before it blows up in Ohio's face," Milburn said.

LeafLink, a large wholesale cannabis marketplace, commended Ohio residents for approving Issue 2 and urged lawmakers to promptly enact the law as passed.

"This vote presents a tremendous opportunity for the state where legal adult-use sales are projected to exceed $1 billion annually," said Rodney Holcombe, Policy Director of LeafLink. "This move puts Ohio in league with 23 other states that have taken this significant stride forward. We have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of legalized cannabis, including job creation, tax revenue for vital government services, and unique business opportunities for entrepreneurs."

With the passage of Issue 2, Ohio joins the growing list of states embracing the legalization of recreational marijuana, reshaping the landscape of cannabis policies in the United States.

SOURCE: https://apnews.com/article/ohio-marijuana-legalization-election-2023-6d15efb27fdcd41e7364f2b7cd3177f4

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