Ohio Governor Says Residents Do Not Want Recreational Legalized
There are two state questions that will appear on the Ohio Ballot this November, and both are a matter of great contention for residents and lawmakers. The first is Issue 1, which would protect access to sexual health services, including contraception, abortion, and fertility treatment. Residents are polarized on the Issue 1.
The second is Issue 2, which is the ballot initiative that would make recreational cannabis legal to sell, buy, and use for adults over the age of twenty-one (21) years.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) is actively working with the media to share his belief that most Ohio residents do not, in fact, want recreational cannabis legalized. Even though several polls conducted in 2023 indicate that the majority of Ohioans wish to see adult use legalized.
Governor Opinion Does Not Align With Polling Results on Adult-Use Legalization in Ohio
But that message seems to be more of a personal opinion expressed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine rather than speaking for the majority of his constituents. Contradicting the results of many polls conducted with Ohio residents, which show overwhelming support for recreational cannabis legalization.
On October 30, 2023, Marijuana Moment reported that one survey of Ohio voters conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 59% of respondents would vote yes to legalize recreational marijuana. The same poll reported 39% of respondents were opposed, and 2% were undecided.
In press appearances and statements, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has suggested that voters are confused about Issue 1 and Issue 2.
However, pro-legalization fundraising data reports that Ohio advocates for recreational use have raised almost four times the funds that anti-adult use marijuana groups have collected.
How Many Votes Will Be Required to Legalize Ohio Recreational Marijuana?
A simple majority vote for Ohio Issue 2 to pass on the November ballot. That means 50% of voters, plus one additional vote, would be required. Based on 2023 polls, it appears that residents in Ohio support the legalization of recreational cannabis in the state. In higher numbers than 50% plus 1 vote.
Which is probably why Gov. Mike DeWine is actively addressing the issue in the weeks leading up to the November ballot in an attempt to dissuade voters from supporting the initiative.
Why is Governor Mike DeWine Opposed to Recreational Legalization in Ohio?
DeWine has cited that states with recreational cannabis have seen more accidents and injuries due to driving under the influence compared to states that prohibit adult use. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA)has reported an increase in drug-impaired driving in states that legalize both medical and recreational use.
There is also an incremental increase in accidental cannabis consumption by minors in states that have legalized medical and adult use marijuana. Read: “Sharp Rise In Kids Accidentally Eating Edibles As Marijuana Becomes Legal In More States,” on Forbes.
What Would Recreational Marijuana Legalization Look Like in Ohio?
Voters in Ohio should review the proposed legislation should Issue 2 pass by majority vote. The originally proposed terms of adult-use marijuana were submitted in the petition to the Attorney General of Ohio.
If voters approve Issue 2 in Ohio, the recreational cannabis laws may include the following:
Minimum Age to Purchase and Possess Cannabis
Residents of Ohio who are aged twenty-one (21) and older will be permitted to enter a recreational dispensary and purchase cannabis products. The only exception to this rule may be individuals serving parole for federal or state crimes, but it has not been clearly defined.
Maximum Cannabis Purchase and Possession Amounts
Two and a half ounces of cannabis flower is almost equivalent to a sandwich bag full of bud. That would be the legal limit for recreational marijuana users in Ohio. People over twenty-one years of age would not be able to purchase or possess more than that quantity or face legal charges.
The current proposed laws for Issue 2 (recreational marijuana legalization in Ohio) permit individuals to buy and possess up to 15 grams of cannabis extract. That means concentrated marijuana products, vapes and oils, wax, edibles, and resins.
Legalized At-Home Cultivation of Cannabis Plants
Adult use marijuana sales may be curtailed if Issue 2 is ratified and allows for at-home cultivation by adults over 21 in the state of Ohio. The proposed legislation includes an allowance of 12 cannabis plants that can be propagated at home. If a household has more than one adult aged 21 or older, a maximum limit of 12 plants per home would be permitted.
It is important to note that people who rent homes or apartments may not be able to grow cannabis. While the state may legalize growing cannabis at home, landlords and property management companies are under no legal obligation to permit it, regardless of any amendments to the state constitution.
Additional Excise Tax Imposed on Recreational Cannabis Sales
In the current language of Issue 2, there would be an additional excise tax of 10% levied on all recreational cannabis product sales. Some communities in Ohio opt to charge a separate tax, which means the maximum tax charged on recreational products could be just under 18% when combined with conventional state retail taxes.
The additional excise tax charged on recreational sales will also help fund the administrative costs of governing new adult-use laws and enforcement. Some of the costs include investment in compliance testing laboratories, licensing of adult use cannabis operators, and more.
Social Equity and Public Health and Education Funding
Funds from the excise tax charged on all recreational products in Ohio would be allocated to fund public safety, road and infrastructure improvement in Ohio, as well as drug treatment and education for addiction prevention.
Social equity programs to invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis incarceration in Ohio would also be funded. This allows all communities negatively affected by “the war against drugs” to support an equal representation of black and brown American entrepreneurs in the growing Ohio cannabis business sector.
Portions of the tax revenue from recreational use would also be allocated to regulate marijuana and cannabis control. Funds would also expand addiction services and controlled substances education programs.
Senate President Opposes Recreational Marijuana Legalization
In February 2022, organizers in Ohio had gathered enough signatures (over 130,000) to forward the recreational marijuana bill to the Legislature. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is the largest advocacy group pushing cannabis reform in the state.
However, Senate President Matt Huffman has repeatedly stated that no laws that legalize recreational marijuana use in Ohio will be approved by him. In one speech on the Senate floor regarding Issue 2, President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) stated that recreational cannabis would cause a “mental health crisis” in the state.
In the past year, and given the fact that Issue 2 will appear on the Ohio ballot board, Senate President Matt Huffman has not changed his personal opinion, but his stance has changed, as it appears that the majority of votes may support the legalization of recreational or adult-use cannabis in Ohio.
What lawmakers who are in opposition to recreational legalization have said is that if Ohio voters favor adult use, there will be “some changes” to the proposed laws. Some have guessed that may mean the removal of the right to grow cannabis plants at home for recreational users.
Brief History of Cannabis Legalization in Ohio
Like many states, the journey to legalize marijuana both for medical and adult use has been long in Ohio. On June 8th, 2016, Ohio became the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. House Bill 523 was sponsored by Representative Stephen Huffman and was approved in the House of Representatives with sweeping support and a vote of 67-29.
The legalization of medical cannabis faced a narrow win in the Senate, however, with a final 18-15 vote.
Nonetheless, the first dispensary sale of cannabis products in Ohio did not occur until January 14, 2019. The state licensed the first 56 dispensaries on June 4, 2-18. Joan Caleodis of Martins Ferry purchased dried cannabis flower with her Ohio medical card at CY+Dispensary in Wintersville.
Ohio led America by being one of the first states to decriminalize cannabis possession. Since 1975, possession of up to 100 grams or 3 1/4 ounces of cannabis has been decriminalized, and many cities across the state have modified their laws to further reduce penalties for possession of cannabis. Possession of the maximum limit or less is classified as a minor misdemeanor with a $150 fine.
In 2015, Initiative 3 sought to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio. However, when the matter was put on the ballot, voters did not approve of the change. Initiative 3 had some celebrity backing, as it was supported by boy band star Nick Lachey, Oscar Robertson (NBA Hall of Fame), NFL Defensive End Frostee Rucker, and fashion designer Nanette Lepore.
Ohio Governor Kasich signed Senate Bill 204 in Ohio on June 13, 2016. This law became known as “Smoke a Joint? Lose Your License,” and any individual charged with cannabis possession would face a mandatory six-month license suspension. The law was later repealed.
Next week will determine how many Ohio voters want to make recreational cannabis legal in their state.
Image: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine 04″ by Jason H. Salley is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
I am a Chief Marketing Officer at DocMJ, a leading provider of medical cannabis health services to qualified patients. I have over 20 years of experience in healthcare marketing and communications, with a proven track record of delivering impactful and compliant campaigns that educate, inform, and empower patients to make better choices for their health and wellness.