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 Looks To Double Number of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

A top medical cannabis official in Ohio said last week that the state would like to significantly increase the number of available dispensary licenses in a move to address widening demand. 

Cleveland.com reports that Justin Sheridan, the director of medical marijuana operations at the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, said Thursday that “regulators want to double the number of dispensary licenses in the state to satisfy patient demand, which has been much higher than anticipated since the program became operational.”

Ohio has 58 medical cannabis dispensaries at the moment, according to the website. Speaking at Ohio State University last week, Sheridan said that the board is currently “working on adding 73 new dispensary licenses,” Cleveland.com reported.

According to the website, Sheridan said that the state Board of Pharmacy “received 1,400 applications for new dispensaries” in November, and that the “Ohio Lottery conducted a drawing to determine which companies would receive provisional dispensary licenses.”

The move to expand the number of dispensaries is a testament to the success of Ohio’s medical cannabis program, which launched sales in 2019, three years after lawmakers there passed a measure legalizing the treatment. 

When the first medical cannabis dispensaries opened in Ohio, “regulators projected 12,000 to 24,000 patients in the first two years,” according to Cleveland.com.

But instead, by February of last year, “there were 136,507 registered patients,” the website said, and today “there are 252,139.”

“In addition to more patients, some areas of the state have no dispensaries, including several rural areas in Northwestern and Western Ohio. In addition, some areas in southeastern Ohio only have one dispensary across several counties,” the website said, detailing the problem facing patients in the state.

Last month, the state’s Department of Commerce Medical Marijuana Control Program reported that the medical cannabis program had generated roughly $725 million in revenue

Under the state’s medical cannabis law, the treatment is available to patients with a host of qualifying conditions, including: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Huntington’s disease, 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, Spasticity, spinal cord disease or injury, terminal illness, Tourette syndrome, traumatic brain injury and ulcerative colitis.

In recent years, lawmakers have grappled with whether or not to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions, as 17 other states have done. 

Two years ago, the state’s Medical Board rejected a bid to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions after hearing testimony from proponents and opponents. A group of children’s hospitals in the state were among the latter group.

“The inclusion of autism and anxiety as conditions has the potential to negatively impact the health and well being of thousands of children in Ohio,” Sarah Kincaid of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association told regulators on the board at the time. “There is little rigorous evidence that marijuana or its derivatives is of benefit for patients with autism and anxiety, but there is a substantial association between cannabis use and the onset or worsening of several psychiatric conditions.”

Last month, lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow patients with autism to receive medical cannabis.

“This bill is a direct result of the needs and wants of the people of Ohio who are on the autism spectrum,” said one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Democratic state House Representative Juanita Brent. “It will help ensure legal access to a plant-based solution free from costly prescription medications or other outdated and sometimes harmful treatments.”

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Cleveland Officials File Motions to Expunge 4,000 Cannabis Convictions

City officials in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday filed motions to expunge more than 4,000 misdemeanor convictions for past cannabis offenses, making good on a 2020 ordinance to reform the city’s cannabis policy. 

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb announced the filing of the expungement motions at an event held at the Cuyahoga County Justice Center. The mayor, appearing with Cleveland assistant chief prosecutor Aqueelah Jordan, council president Blaine Griffin, and law director Mark Griffin, told reporters that it was a historic day for the people of Cleveland.

“Today’s event shows our commitment in the city of Cleveland to advancing criminal justice reform,” Bibb told reporters. “But it also gives folks all across the city and across this region a second chance at getting a good job and the quality of life that they deserve.”

At the event, the officials presented the expungement motions to the clerks at the Cleveland Municipal Court located at the county justice center. The motions cover 4,077 misdemeanor weed cases for possession of 200 grams (about seven ounces) or less of cannabis dating back to 2017.

“This is the natural progression of what we (at council) wanted to see; first to decriminalize, then to have records expunged. Before we passed the legislation, we put together a working group with activists and criminal justice experts,” Griffin said in a statement from the city council. “As more and more states legalized marijuana, we wanted to position the city in that direction. For me, this has always been about criminal justice reform.”

Reform Ordinance Passed Two Years Ago

Cleveland officials filed the expungement motions in response to a 2020 city council ordinance to reform cannabis policy that eliminated the threat of fines and jail time for possessing less than 200 grams of cannabis. Under Ohio state law, possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis carries a fine of up to $150, while possessing between 100 and 200 grams is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250.

While reviewing past weed cases, the prosecutor’s office identified 455 individuals who were mistakenly charged after the passage of the 2020 ordinance. Those charges were in addition to the thousands of cases since 2017 that prosecutors have determined are eligible for expungement.

“Today, we are moving forward with a motion to expunge all cases of minor misdemeanor marijuana possession to honor the City’s legislation and eliminate criminal consequences,” said Jordan, who also called on the state of Ohio to expand its cannabis reform efforts to include recreational cannabis. Currently, the state has a limited medical weed program for patients with certain qualifying medical conditions.

City officials noted that last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, a bill to decriminalize cannabis at the national level and expunge past federal cannabis convictions. But local measures can help move the process along.

“We are seeing progress in Washington on this issue, but it’s slow. There are immediate steps we can take right now in Cleveland to clear the names of over 4,000 residents who deserve a fresh start,” Bibb said in the statement from the city. “This is just one way we can make progress on criminal justice reform to balance the scales and remove barriers to employment and re-entry.” 

The expungement motions filed by the city will be considered by presiding judge Michelle Earley and other judges of the Cleveland Municipal Court. The court is expected to hold hearings on the motions before approving the expungements, which are not automatic under the new ordinance.

“The judges have the right to rule on the motions and we will respect those rights,” Jordan said. “Our judges are very busy, and we are going to be very supportive of whatever time they need.”

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Ohio Medical Cannabis Program Has Made Almost $725 Million

The medical cannabis program in Ohio has generated about $725 million in revenue, according to a local news report.

The figure was noted by local television station WKYC, which cited the state’s Department of Commerce Medical Marijuana Control Program.

Ohio lawmakers passed a measure legalizing medical cannabis in 2016, but sales did not begin until three years later. 

“Ohio’s program has matured pretty quickly,” said Kate Nelson, regional general manager for Acreage Holdings, a cannabis operator, as quoted by WKYC. “I’m very impressed at how much it’s grown as far as patient access goes, recommending physicians and products available.”

The Buckeye State’s medical cannabis law covers a wide range of qualifying conditions: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Huntington’s disease, 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, Spasticity, spinal cord disease or injury, terminal illness, Tourette syndrome, traumatic brain injury and ulcerative colitis.

Currently, there is an effort underway to add autism to that list of qualifying conditions. 

A bill that would permit patients with autism to receive medical cannabis treatment was introduced by a Republican and Democrat in the Ohio state House, and passed out of the chamber earlier this month by a vote of 73-13.

“This bill is a direct result of the needs and wants of the people of Ohio who are on the autism spectrum,” said Democratic state House Representative Juanita Brent, a co-sponsor of the proposal. “It will help ensure legal access to a plant-based solution free from costly prescription medications or other outdated and sometimes harmful treatments.”

A different bill introduced by a Republican state senator would open up the medical cannabis program even more, allowing 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.”

Either bill would represent the most significant change to the state’s medical cannabis program since it launched.

Those aren’t the only cannabis reform efforts afoot in Ohio. A group called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spearheaded a petition effort in the hopes of forcing Ohio lawmakers to act on a legalization bill.

The group submitted roughly 136,000 verified signatures from registered voters in January, which under Ohio state law, triggered a four-month window for legislators to consider the proposal. 

Republican lawmakers have thus far shown an unwillingness to take up the proposal, which brings the group to a Plan B scenario: after collecting another roughly 133,000 valid signatures or so, the legalization proposal could be brought to the Ohio ballot this November.

“We continue to be hopeful that the legislature will act on what we think is an issue that’s popular among Ohio voters,” said Tom Haren, a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, as quoted by WKYC. “From our standpoint, it’s really about just recognizing the reality and about removing the criminal penalties for conduct that, you know, thousands of Ohioans are already engaging in.”

In February, Republican Matt Huffman, the president of the Ohio state Senate, did not mince words when asked about the proposal’s chances in his chamber.

“I don’t want anybody to misunderstand my position,” Huffman said. “I’m not going to bring it to the Senate floor. And if that means people want to go put it on the ballot, have at it.”

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Ohio Lawmakers Advance Bill To Allow Medical Cannabis for Autism

A bid in Ohio to allow patients with autism to be treated with medical cannabis gained momentum this week, with lawmakers in the state House overwhelmingly passing a bill on Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican, passed by a vote of 73-13, according to Cleveland.com, and it will now move to the state Senate for consideration. (Republicans hold the majority in both chambers.)

“This bill is a direct result of the needs and wants of the people of Ohio who are on the autism spectrum,” said Democratic state House Rep. Juanita Brent, one of the co-sponsors of the bill. “It will help ensure legal access to a plant-based solution free from costly prescription medications or other outdated and sometimes harmful treatments.”

Should the measure ultimately become law, Ohio would join 17 other states that currently allow patients with autism to receive medical cannabis. Under the Buckeye State’s current medical marijuana law, patients with the following qualifying conditions may be eligible for the treatment: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Huntington’s disease, 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, Spasticity, spinal cord disease or injury, terminal illness, Tourette syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis.

The bill would also represent a long-awaited breakthrough for advocates who have tried unsuccessfully for years to add autism to the state’s list of qualifying conditions.

In 2020, the Ohio State Medical Board rejected a petition to include autism and anxiety among the qualifying conditions.

The board received public comments from opponents and supporters of the proposal. Sarah Kincaid of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association said at the time that the “inclusion of autism and anxiety as conditions has the potential to negatively impact the health and well being of thousands of children in Ohio.”

Carrie Taylor, a mother with two sons who have autism, expressed frustration back then and wondered if autism would ever be covered by the state’s medical cannabis law.

“Our voice is not being heard right now,” Taylor said at the time. “These doctors have this thought in their mind, and they’re obviously set in stone where they stand. We’re not trying to give them something that’s not legalized with other medical purposes.”

Brent, the sponsor of the bill that passed out of the House this week, said in January that “if the legislature does not address the public outcry for change, I know it will be brought to the ballot box.”

In addition to Brent’s bill, the Ohio state Senate passed its own bill in December that could also open up medical cannabis treatment to patients with autism.

Under that bill, which was brought forward by a GOP state senator and is now being considered by a state House committee, physicians in Ohio could “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 would also explicitly 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.

Should that bill become law, it would be the biggest change to Ohio’s medical cannabis program, which launched in 2016.

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Ohio Senate Leader Rejects Recreational Cannabis Petition

Ohio state Senate President Matt Huffman said last week that he will not act on a petition to legalize recreational cannabis and dared reform activists advancing the proposal to take the issue to voters in a statewide election. Huffman, one of the most powerful Republican lawmakers in Ohio and the leader of the GOP-controlled state Senate, told reporters that he would not bring the adult-use cannabis legalization proposal sponsored by the group the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol up for a vote.

“I don’t want anybody to misunderstand my position,” Huffman said, as quoted by the Columbus Dispatch. “I’m not going to bring it to the Senate floor. And if that means people want to go put it on the ballot, have at it.”

Last month, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol had submitted petitions with about 136,000 verified signatures from registered voters, more than enough to send the legalization proposal to lawmakers for consideration. Under Ohio law, the state legislature was then given four months to adopt the measure as it is written or pass an amended version. 

If lawmakers fail to do so, the campaign can collect another 132,887 signatures to bring the proposal to voters via a ballot measure for this year’s general election. Tom Haren, a spokesman for the campaign, called on state lawmakers to approve the recreational marijuana legalization bid after LaRose announced on January 28 that the group had collected enough signatures to send the proposal to the legislature.

“We are ready and eager to work with Ohio legislators over the next four months to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Ohio,” Haren said in a statement. “We are also fully prepared to collect additional signatures and take this issue directly to voters on November 8, 2022, if legislators fail to act.”

Proposal Would Legalize Recreational Pot for Adults

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

The measure would also levy a 10 percent tax on cannabis products. Revenue raised by the tax would be used to fund the administration of the cannabis program and shared with municipalities that agree to allow marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in their jurisdictions. Taxes would also fund substance abuse programs.

Huffman is not the only state GOP leader to publicly oppose the efforts to legalize pot for adults. Republican Governor Mike DeWine, who campaigned against a recreational cannabis legalization ballot as state attorney general in 2015, has said he will veto an adult-use cannabis bill if one reaches his desk.

“No, I think that’s a mistake,” DeWine said. “I think you change the culture, and you send a signal to kids … If it’s legal, every kid, the message is, it’s okay.”

And House Majority Leader Bill Seitz said that a bill to legalize recreational cannabis introduced by fellow Republicans is unlikely to be approved.

“I have not read the bill, but I am doubtful it could pass,” said Seitz. “My own bipartisan bill to allow medical marijuana for autism spectrum treatment still hasn’t even made it out of committee, and this newly proposed bill is a giant leap beyond that one.”

Haren said that he believes Republicans have declined to bring the campaign’s proposal up for a vote because they fear it will succeed.

“I sort of suspect that the reason folks in leadership are saying they don’t want to bring our proposal to the floor is that they suspect it will pass if it gets to the floor,” he said. “Otherwise, there would be no concern.”

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Petition Forces Ohio Lawmakers into Action on Cannabis Legalization

Ohio’s secretary of state announced last week that cannabis activists had collected enough signatures to force lawmakers to consider a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol collected more than 136,000 verified signatures from registered voters, according to the office of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. The total is almost 4,000 more signatures than the number needed to send the legalization proposal for action by the state legislature.

The proposal now heads to Ohio lawmakers. They will have four months to adopt the measure as state law or pass an amended version. If the state Senate and House of Representatives fail to do so, the campaign would have the chance to collect another 132,887 signatures to place the measure on the ballot for this year’s general election.

“We are ready and eager to work with Ohio legislators over the next four months to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Ohio,” Campaign Spokesman Tom Haren said in a statement. “We are also fully prepared to collect additional signatures and take this issue directly to voters on November 8, 2022, if legislators fail to act.”

Ohio Secretary of State Validates Signatures

In December, the campaign submitted petitions with more than 200,000 signatures. This was significantly more than the 132,887 necessary to send the proposal to lawmakers. But after the secretary of state’s office announced earlier this month that only 119,985 of the signatures had been verified as registered voters, activists submitted nearly 30,000 additional signatures to state officials.

In a letter sent by LaRose’s office on Friday, the secretary of state wrote that with the additional submissions activists had collected a sufficient number of signatures in enough counties to send the petition to the legislature.

“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.”

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

The measure would also set a 10 percent tax on cannabis products. Revenue raised by cannabis taxes would be dedicated to administering the program and to municipalities with marijuana dispensaries. Taxes would also fund substance abuse programs and a social equity and jobs program.

Cannabis Legalization a Long Shot in GOP-led Legislature

However, the legalization proposal is unlikely to gain approval from Ohio’s GOP-controlled state legislature. And even if lawmakers pass the measure, it would likely be vetoed when it reached the desk of Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who voiced opposition to legalizing recreational cannabis in Ohio earlier this month.

“No, I think that’s a mistake,” DeWine said. “I think you change the culture and you send a signal to kids… If it’s legal, every kid, the message is it’s okay.”

But the campaign believes that lawmakers may eventually approve the measure.

“We are expecting a vigorous debate but we expect this to pass because it is popular among Democrats, Independents and Republicans,” Haren told local media.

Last month, two Republican lawmakers introduced a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in Ohio. Separately, the legislature is considering a bill that would expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

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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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