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November 12, 2021

Ohio Inches Towards Adult-Use Legalization, Three Paths Considered

by Chad Blackham, Esq., Mac Murray & Shuster LLP

Recent bills and ballot initiatives suggest that adult-use (i.e., recreational) cannabis may be coming to Ohio in the near future. However, with the State currently considering three separate paths toward legalization, the key question now seems to be just as much how as when.

The first path toward legalization was put forth in July via a bill introduced by Democratic State Representatives Casey Weinstein and Terrence Upchurch. The bill seeks to permit recreational cultivation and possession of cannabis, expunge cannabis convictions and institute a tax to help fund education, infrastructure maintenance and cannabis research. The bill would also allow businesses under Ohio’s existing Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) to obtain licenses for recreational programs.

Republican State Representatives Jamie Callender and Ron Ferguson followed with a second, similar proposal for adult-use cannabis legalization in mid-October. Like its Democrat counterpart, the Republican bill seeks to legalize possession and cultivation of adult-use cannabis, retroactively expunge certain cannabis-related convictions and grandfather in existing MMCP licensees while establishing a framework for the licensure of new applicants. The Republican proposal would also introduce an excise tax to help combat drug addiction and drug trafficking.

The third avenue being considered is through what Ohio refers to as an “initiated statute,” which permits citizens to submit proposed laws for a statewide vote. The initiated statute, backed by advocacy group Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, was approved by the Ohio Ballot Board in August. Should the Coalition gather the roughly 133,000 signatures needed, the proposal would be sent to the Ohio General Assembly for a vote. The Assembly would then have four months to act on the proposed law, which would end cannabis prohibition, allow expansion of an adult-use market, create a new Division of Cannabis Control regulatory authority under the Ohio Department of Commerce, and establish a social equity fund.

Regardless of the path chosen, adult-use cannabis is likely to have significant ramifications for the Buckeye State’s economy such as increased tax revenue and new social equity initiatives. Often seen as a bellwether state, Ohio’s legalization of adult-use cannabis may also have implications for other areas of the country, or even at the federal level, as legalization continues to spread throughout the nation.

Reprinted with permission from Mac Murray & Shuster LLP.


Blackham

Often seen as a bellwether state, Ohio’s legalization of adult-use cannabis may also have implications for other areas of the country, or even at the federal level, as legalization continues to spread throughout the nation.