Ohio Cannabis Legalization Vote Pushed Back to 2023

Cannabis activists in Ohio have reached a settlement to move a vote on legalizing recreational cannabis to next year, ending a controversy over a deadline to collect signatures from voters supporting the proposal. Under the terms of the agreement reached with state officials on Friday, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will retain the more than 140,000 signatures collected for this year’s effort and avoid having to repeat the process for the 2023 election.

“This guarantees the validity of the signatures we’ve already gathered, and we’ve got a much clearer path if we have to get to the ballot next year,” said Tom Haren, a spokesman for the coalition.

The group seeking to legalize cannabis for use by adults in Ohio sued Republican legislative leaders earlier this month after they refused to consider a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis signed by more than 140,000 voters. The agreement reached between state officials and activists last week will move a vote on the proposal to next year.

The proposal from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol would allow adults 21 and older in Ohio to possess and purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. Adults would also be permitted to legally grow up to six cannabis plants at home, with a cap of 12 plants per household.

The measure would also establish a 10% tax on sales of cannabis products. Revenue raised by cannabis taxes would be allocated to administering the program and to local governments in cities and towns that choose to host recreational cannabis dispensaries. Taxes would also be used to fund substance abuse programs and a social equity and jobs program.

Ohio Activists Submitted More Than 140,000 Signatures

In December, the coalition submitted petitions with more than 200,000 signatures, far exceeding the 132,887 necessary to send the proposal to the state legislature for consideration. But in January, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office announced that fewer than 120,000 of the signatures had been verified as registered voters.

Activists then submitted nearly 30,000 additional signatures to state officials for verification. The added signatures were enough to meet the minimum threshold required, according to a letter LaRose sent in late January.

“The initial part-petitions contained 119,825 valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative of the total signatures submitted, signatures from 51 counties were submitted that met or exceeded 1.5% of the total number of votes cast for governor in the respective counties at the last gubernatorial election,” Larose wrote in a letter posted online by Northeast Ohio Media Group.

“The additional part-petitions contained 16,904 valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative,” the secretary of state continued in his letter. “I hereby certify that the part-petitions contained a total of 136,729 valid signatures submitted on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative petition.”

Under Ohio state law, petitioners for proposed ballot measures must submit signatures at least 10 days before the legislative session begins. Lawmakers then have four months to act on the proposal. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted its signatures on January 28, which would establish a May 28 deadline for lawmakers to act on the petition.

Legalization Effort Challenged By GOP Leaders

But lawyers for Republican legislators argued that the petition should have been submitted and approved 10 days before the start of the legislation. Under that scenario, legalization activists missed the deadline, leading GOP legislative leaders to argue that the petition should not be considered until 2023. According to emails filed with the campaign’s lawsuit filed in Franklin County, Attorney General Dave Yost’s office appeared to agree with the Republican legal counsel’s analysis.

Activists with the cannabis legalization campaign sued Republican leaders, contending that the submission of signatures to LaRose’s office on January 28 fulfilled the legal deadline for the legalization petition. The legal action asked the court to rule that the campaign has complied with the process and permit the cannabis legalization effort to continue this year. If the suit had succeeded, activists would then have had until early July to collect additional signatures to qualify the proposal for this year’s general election in November.

The agreement reached last week brings an end to the controversy over the deadline to submit signatures and moves the vote to legalize recreational cannabis in Ohio to 2023.

“We are delighted to have reached this settlement, which has preserved our initial signatures, provided the General Assembly with a second opportunity to consider the proposed statute, and established a clear path to ballot access in 2023,” Haren said in a statement from the campaign. “To be certain: we aren’t going anywhere and are undeterred in our goal to legalize cannabis for all adults in Ohio.”

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Ohio Activists Sue GOP Leaders Over Cannabis Legalization Ballot Question

Ohio cannabis activists have filed a lawsuit against Republican leaders in the state legislature, alleging that they are attempting to thwart a cannabis legalization ballot question from appearing before voters in the November general election. Members of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol filed the action on Friday against House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman, claiming the legislative leaders are improperly trying to delay the ballot question until next year.

The proposal from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol would allow adults 21 and older in Ohio to possess and purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. Adults would also be permitted to legally cultivate up to six cannabis plants at home, with a cap of 12 plants per household.

The measure would also levy a 10% tax on sales of cannabis products. Revenue raised by cannabis taxes would be dedicated to administering the program and to cities and towns with cannabis dispensaries. Taxes would also fund substance abuse programs and a social equity and jobs program.

More Than 135,000 Signed Petitions To Legalize Cannabis in Ohio

At the end of last year, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alchohol submitted petitions with more than 200,000 signatures, significantly more than the 132,887 necessary to send the proposal to lawmakers for consideration. But in January, the secretary of state’s office announced that less than 120,000 of the signatures had been verified as registered voters.

Activists then submitted nearly 30,000 additional signatures to state officials for verification. Those signatures were enough to meet the minimum threshold required, according to a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent in late January.

“The initial part-petitions contained 119,825 valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative of the total signatures submitted, signatures from 51 counties were submitted that met or exceeded 1.5 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in the respective counties at the last gubernatorial election,” Larose wrote in a letter posted online by Northeast Ohio Media Group.

“The additional part-petitions contained 16,904 valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative,” he continued. “I hereby certify that the part-petitions contained a total of 136,729 valid signatures submitted on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative petition.”

GOP Lawmakers Challenge Timeliness of Petition

Under Ohio state law, petitioners for proposed ballot measures must submit signatures at least 10 days before the legislative session. Lawmakers then have four months to act on the proposal. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted its signatures on January 28, which would translate to a May 28 deadline for lawmakers to act on the petition.

But lawyers for GOP legislators have argued that a petition must be submitted and approved 10 days before the start of the legislation. Under that interpretation, legalization activists missed the deadline, leading legislative leaders to suggest the petition will not be considered until 2023. According to emails filed with the campaign’s lawsuit filed in Franklin County on Friday, Attorney General Dave Yost’s office seemed to agree with the GOP legal counsel’s analysis.

The lawsuit by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol contends that the submission of signatures to LaRose’s office on January 28 fulfilled the legal deadline for the legalization petition. The legal action asks the court to rule that the campaign has complied with the process and permit the cannabis legalization effort to continue this year. If the suit is successful, activists would then have until early July to collect additional signatures to qualify the proposal for the November general election.

A spokesperson for LaRose declined to comment on the legal action, according to a report from The Columbus Dispatch. Spokesmen for Huffman and Cupp did not immediately respond to a questions submitted by the newspaper.

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Ohio Advocates Submit Additional Signatures for Cannabis Proposal

Activists in Ohio last week submitted nearly 30,000 additional signatures as part of an effort to get a marijuana legalization proposal before state lawmakers.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that the group known as the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol “turned in another 29,918 signatures to Secretary of State Frank LaRose” on Thursday “after falling short earlier this month.”

The coalition submitted a total of 206,943 signatures late last month as part of a petition campaign for the legalization proposal to be brought to the legislature. 

If the proposal were to be enacted, Ohioans ages 21 and older could legally buy and possess as many as 2.5 ounces of pot. The activists must obtain 132,887 signatures from Ohio voters spanning a minimum of 44 counties in order for the proposal to be considered by lawmakers. Then, lawmakers have a maximum of four months to act on the bill.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol suffered a setback earlier this month when LaRose’s office said that only 119,825 of the more than 200,000 signatures were valid—well under the threshold.

Now, with almost 30,000 additional signatures submitted, the coalition will hope that the legalization measure will finally make it to the state house in Columbus.

According to the Dispatch, if legislators “don’t pass the bill or pass an amended version” within the four-month time frame, “supporters can collect another 132,887 valid signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.”

In addition to permitting eligible adults to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, the new proposal would also allow for up to “15 grams of concentrates,” along with “up to six plants individually and no more than 12 in a household with multiple adults,” according to the Dispatch.

The newspaper reported that, under the proposal, cannabis products “would be taxed at 10 percent, with revenue going toward administrative costs, addiction treatment programs, municipalities with dispensaries, and a social equity and jobs program.”

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol launched its campaign in earnest in July.

“We are proposing to regulate marijuana for adult use, just like we do for alcohol. Our proposal fixes a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and benefiting everyone,” coalition Spokesman Tom Haren said in a press release at the time of the campaign launch.

“Ohioans want this,” he added. “They see marijuana legalization as inevitable. They want our leaders to seize the opportunity and take control of our future. Marijuana legalization is an issue whose time has come in Ohio. Nineteen states have gone before Ohio and we crafted legislation based on the best practices learned by those that went before us.”

But in the announcement, Haren noted that lawmakers did not have to wait for the petitions to be verified, saying the group is “ready to work with the General Assembly on meaningful reform right now, and it’s our sincere hope that we’ll collaborate on a sensible solution.”

While recreational cannabis isn’t yet legal in the Buckeye State, Ohio has had a medical cannabis program since 2016. Last month, state lawmakers passed a bill that would amount to some of the biggest changes to the program since it launched. 

Most notably, the bill would permit licensed physicians to “recommend marijuana for treatment for any condition if the physician, in the physician’s sole discretion and medical opinion, finds either of the following”: “that the patient’s symptoms may reasonably be expected to be relieved from medical marijuana” and “that the patient may otherwise reasonably be expected to benefit from medical marijuana.”

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Proposal to Legalize Cannabis Heads to Ohio Legislature

More than 200,000 signatures later, a proposal to legalize cannabis in Ohio is heading back to the legislature.

Activists in Ohio submitted their petitions totaling 206,943 signatures this week to the secretary of state for verification for a proposal that would legalize possession and purchases of cannabis for adults.

Once the verification is done, “lawmakers will have four months to act on the legislation,” the Columbus Dispatch reported, and if they fail to pass the bill or an amended version, “supporters can collect another 132,887 valid signatures to put the measure on the ballot for the next general election.”

The Dispatch reported that the proposal “would allow Ohioans age 21 and older to buy and possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis and 15 grams of concentrates,” and that they “could also grow up to six plants individually and no more than 12 in a household with multiple adults.”

Cannabis products “would be taxed 10 percent, with revenue going toward administrative costs, addiction treatment programs, municipalities with dispensaries and a social equity and jobs program,” according to the newspaper.

The group behind the legalization effort is the “Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.”

“Marijuana legalization is an issue whose time has come in Ohio. According to recent polling, Ohioans are not only in favor of legalizing marijuana for regulated adult-use, they view it as inevitable,” the coalition says on its website. “We hope that Ohio’s leaders seize this opportunity to take control of our future. Support for a regulatory and taxation system is critical in order to set Ohio up for success should we see changes at the federal level.”

The group says its campaign is “an effort to encourage Ohio legislators to regulate marijuana for adult-use, just like we do for alcohol,” and to advance a proposal that would fix “a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and benefiting everyone.”

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Ohio Plans for Legalization

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol first drafted the proposed bill in the summer, and began gathering signatures shortly thereafter. 

The Dispatch reported that this campaign is different from the one waged in 2015, “when voters rejected a constitutional amendment pushed by ResponsibleOhio that would have paved the way for adult marijuana use.”

Additionally, the latest legalization proposal would grandfather the state’s medical cannabis businesses into the newly created recreational market, according to the Columbus Dispatch. 

Ohio’s medical cannabis program may already be on the cusp of a significant overhaul. The state Senate last week passed a bill that would result in the first changes to the program since it began five years ago. 

Most notably, the legislation would permit physicians in the state to “recommend marijuana for treatment for any condition if the physician, in the physician’s sole discretion and medical opinion, finds either of the following”: that the patient’s symptoms may reasonably be expected to be relieved from medical marijuana” and “that the patient may otherwise reasonably be expected to benefit from medical marijuana.”

The bill, which is currently under consideration by the state House of Representatives, would also add arthritis, migraines, autism spectrum disorder, spasticity or chronic muscle spasms, hospice care or terminal illness and opioid use disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis treatment.

Currently, cannabis treatment may be recommended for the following qualifying conditions: Acquired immune deficiency syndrome; Alzheimer’s disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Cancer; Chronic traumatic encephalopathy; Crohn’s disease; Epilepsy or another seizure disorder; Fibromyalgia; Glaucoma; Hepatitis C; Inflammatory bowel disease; Multiple sclerosis; Pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable; Parkinson’s disease; Positive status for HIV; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Sickle cell anemia; Spinal cord disease or injury; Tourette’s syndrome; Traumatic brain injury, and Ulcerative colitis.

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