Jury Finds Pharmacy Chains Contributed to Ohio’s Opioid Crisis

A federal jury in Ohio on Tuesday found that pharmacy giants Walgreens, CVS and Walmart contributed to the opioid crisis in that state, a verdict that could serve as a bellwether for thousands of similar cases pending from coast to coast. The decision is the first verdict returned by a jury that holds a pharmacy retailer responsible for its role in the devastating epidemic of opioid overdoses that has plagued the United States for decades.

In the lawsuit, Lake and Trumbell Counties in northeastern Ohio maintained that the pharmacy retailers had recklessly distributed more than 100 million opioid pain pills in the counties, leading to addiction, death and a strain on public services. Between 2012 and 2016, more than 80 million prescriptions painkillers were dispensed in Trumbull County alone, or about 400 pills for every resident. During the same period, approximately 61 million opioid painkillers were dispensed in Lake County.

“For decades, pharmacy chains have watched as the pills flowing out of their doors cause harm and failed to take action as required by law,” a committee of attorneys representing local governments in federal opioid lawsuits said in a statement. “Instead, these companies responded by opening up more locations, flooding communities with pills, and facilitating the flow of opioids into an illegal, secondary market.”

Counties Say Pharmacies Created a Public Nuisance

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the actions of the pharmacies amounted to a public nuisance that cost the counties about $1 billion each to address. Mark Lanier, an attorney representing the counties, said that the pharmacies failed to hire or train enough employees and implement systems to prevent suspicious orders from being filled.

“The law requires pharmacies to be diligent in dealing drugs,” Lanier said. “This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted.” 

“The jury sounded a bell that should be heard through all pharmacies in America,” he added.

The suit originally also named pharmacy retailers Rite-Aid and Giant Eagle as plaintiffs in the case. Rite-Aid settled in August and agreed to pay Trumbull County $1.5 million in damages, while a settlement amount with Lake County has not been released. Giant Eagle agreed to settle late last month, although terms of that agreement were not disclosed.

The case, which was decided by a 12-person jury after a six-week trial, was returned in one of about 3,000 federal opioid lawsuits being supervised by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland. Adam Zimmerman, who teaches mass litigation at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said that the verdict could prompt other pharmaceutical retailers to settle their pending cases.

“It’s the first opioid trial against these major household names,” Zimmerman told the New York Times. “They have been the least willing group of defendants to settle, so this verdict is at least a small sign to them that these cases won’t necessarily play out well in front of juries.”

Pharmacy Chains Will Appeal Verdict

All three retailers have indicated that they will appeal the jury’s verdict. Walmart said in a statement that the plaintiffs’ attorneys sued “in search of deep pockets while ignoring the real causes of the opioid crisis—such as pill mill doctors, illegal drugs, and regulators asleep at the switch—and they wrongly claimed pharmacists must second-guess doctors in a way the law never intended and many federal and state health regulators say interferes with the doctor-patient relationship.”

Walgreens spokesperson Fraser Engerman characterized the case as an unsustainable effort “to resolve the opioid crisis with an unprecedented expansion of public nuisance law,” adding that the company “never manufactured or marketed opioids nor did we distribute them to the ‘pill mills’ and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis.”

“As plaintiffs’ own experts testified, many factors have contributed to the opioid abuse issue, and solving this problem will require involvement from all stakeholders in our health care system and all members of our community,” CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis said in a statement after the verdict was announced.

The retail pharmacies are not alone in their criticism of the verdict. Dr. Ryan Marino, an assistant professor of the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Psychiatry at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, says that focusing on blaming the pharmaceutical industry, prescribers, and pharmacies ignores the role that bad policies have played in the opioid crisis.

“If retail pharmacies are declared responsible, I ask that we also hold policymakers responsible for their role in driving people to foreseeable death and failing to act to prevent disordered substance use or addiction by failing to provide access to safety in addition to basic things like housing, education, employment, and income, which are well known to prevent addiction in the first place,” Marino wrote in an email to High Times. “The same old approaches have not helped this problem, and in fact, seem to be only making it worse.”

Some drug manufacturers and distributors including Johnson & Johnson have also opted to settle cases brought against them for their alleged contributions to the opioid crisis, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans over the past twenty years. Kevin Roy, chief public policy officer at addiction solutions advocacy group Shatterproof, said that Tuesday’s verdict could prompt other pharmacies to consider a settlement.

“It’s a signal that the public, at least in select places, feels that there’s been exposure and needs to be remedied,” Roy said.

Roy noted, however, that the different courts hearing opioid cases have not been consistent in their judgments and that the details of public nuisance laws vary from state to state. Earlier this month, a California judge ruled in favor of drug manufacturers in a case brought by the city of Oakland and three counties. And in Oklahoma on November 9, the state Supreme Court overturned a 2019 verdict for $465 million against Johnson & Johnson.

“There’s been a variety of different decisions lately that should give us reason to be cautious about what this really means in the grand scheme,” Roy said.

Just how much Walgreens, CVS and Walmart will have to pay Trumbull and Lake Counties remains to be seen. The judge is expected to issue a decision on damages to be awarded in the case in the spring.

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Proposed Bill Would Expand Medical Cannabis Access in Ohio

A Republican lawmaker in Ohio wants to expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in the state.

Steve Huffman, a state senator in the Buckeye State, introduced a bill on Tuesday that his office said would make “significant improvements to the medical marijuana program in Ohio.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 261, would “expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana to include: autism spectrum disorder, arthritis, migraines, terminal illness and treatment of any other medical condition determined by a licensed physician,” according to the press release from Huffman’s office.

Ohio’s current medical cannabis law allows physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with the following 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.

Additionally, Huffman’s bill would allow “for medical marijuana to be processed and dispensed in additional forms so that a patient can be treated through a variety of methods,” and would move primary oversight of the medical marijuana control program to the Department of Commerce “in an effort to streamline the process for businesses.”

Ohio Regulation and Access

Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is currently regulated by both the Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Commerce. It was first put into effect by House Bill 523. Although it went into effect on September 8, 2016, it wasn’t until January 16, 2019, that the state opened licensed dispensaries. 

The legislation also “expands opportunities for level I and II cultivators and permits additional retail dispensaries to open, based on patient need and market demand,” and includes “an equity study examining how the state can expand and make improvements to the medical marijuana program.”

As a practicing physician in the state who wrote Ohio’s medical marijuana law in 2016, Huffman said that his hope is that “this business friendly bill will create greater access for patients at a lower cost.”

“As a medical doctor and a State Senator, I am committed to the quality of life of the people I serve,” Huffman said in the press release. “The provisions in this bill are about improving the treatment options for patients.”

Huffman’s reform effort comes at a time when other activists and lawmakers in the Buckeye State have shifted their attention to outright legalization. In September, Ohio regulators signed off on a group’s plans to circulate petitions in order to get a legalization proposal placed before state legislators. 

After receiving the green light from the state’s ballot board, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) began its efforts to collect around 133,000 signatures. 

If the group succeeds, the proposal will go to the legislature. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, if “the Legislature doesn’t pass or passes an amended version of the bill, supporters can collect another 132,887 signatures to put the proposal before voters, likely in November 2022.”

Additionally, Republican lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives introduced a bill last month that allows adults age 21 and older to buy, possess and cultivate marijuana. The bill, according to Spectrum News, would “impose a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana with the money going to fight drug addiction and illegal drug trafficking,” and “also allow Ohioans who went to prison for pot-related crimes to have their records expunged.”

There have also been significant changes to the state’s medical marijuana law. Last month, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy voted to more than double the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. 

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Ohio to More than Double Number of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

A regulatory panel in Ohio gave the green light on Tuesday to plans that would more than double the number of medical cannabis dispensaries in the state.

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy voted “to start the process of awarding an additional 73 licenses,” per the Cincinnati Enquirer. There are currently 58 licensed dispensaries in the Buckeye State, with the Enquirer noting that nine of which “are owned and operated by someone who identifies as African American, Native American, Hispanic, Latino or Asian.”

The Enquirer reported that equity provisions “weren’t discussed during the meeting or mentioned in the request for applications approved Tuesday,” and that a spokesperson for the Ohio Board of Pharmacy said that the board “is still reviewing how it can encourage equity within the state law and rules.”

According to the paper, licenses for cultivation and dispensaries “were awarded in 2017 and 2018 under state law that required 15 percent of all marijuana licenses go to businesses owned by a member of one of those ‘economically disadvantaged’ groups,” but that requirement was later “struck down by court and won’t be in place for this second application round for 73 new licenses that begins this month.”

For now, more details regarding the application process are set to be released next week. The application period will run in November, and the licenses will likely be awarded early next year. 

Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016 when lawmakers in the state passed a bill authorizing the treatment. The state’s first dispensaries opened three years later, as it continues to tweak and expand the law.

In June, the Ohio State Medical Board added Huntington’s disease, terminal disease and spasticity to the list of qualifying conditions, although it also rejected the addition of autism spectrum disorder, restless leg syndrome, panic disorder with agoraphobia and spasms.

That same month, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program issued new rules over the use of Delta-8 THC, which included a new requirement licensee notification of “the use of Delta-8 THC must include a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that describes the process and methods with which Delta-8 THC will be used in compliance” with the state’s existing laws. 

The panel also issued requirements that the “total THC content—combination of Delta-9 THC and any other THC isomer or analog—of the manufactured product shall not exceed 70 percent,” a notable stipulation given hemp-derived Delta-8’s similarities to marijuana. In that same vein, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control program required that Delta-8 THC “must be fully incorporated on the package and label for patient awareness,” and that abbreviations “such as ‘Delta-8’ or ‘D8,’” are not allowed.

But while the state’s medical marijuana law continues to evolve, efforts to legalize recreational pot use have been slow to get off the ground. 

In July, a pair of Ohio lawmakers introduced what was said to be the first bill to legalize and regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana in the state’s history.

The bill, introduced by Democratic state House Reps. Casey Weinstein and Terrence Upchurch, would make it legal for adults aged 21 and older to “buy and possess up to five ounces of marijuana at a time and grow up to 12 mature plants for personal use.”

“We’re seeing there are dramatic economic benefits, there are medical benefits and there’s a strong criminal justice avenue here so we can focus law enforcement on violent crime,” Weinstein said after the bill was introduced. “Ohio is at the point where we’re going to be behind if we don’t act now. I hope this provides the spark that we need to elevate the conversation and get this legislation moving.”

The state’s Republican governor, Mike Dewine, has previously voiced opposition to legalizing marijuana.

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Ohio Program Trains Cannabis Offenders for Industry Jobs

An Ohio nonprofit organization providing services for formerly incarcerated people has teamed up with a medical marijuana cultivator to develop a cannabis jobs training program for individuals with past  marijuana convictions.

Dubbed URC Grows, the collaboration between United Returning Citizens and Youngstown, Ohio licensed growing operation Riviera Creek Holdings LLC aims to pair past cannabis offenders with industry jobs in the state’s legal cannabis market.

“This program will give [the past offenders] an opportunity to get back into the workforce,” Brian Kessler, chairman of Riviera Creek Holdings, told The Business Journal.

The new jobs program will be open to those with prior marijuana-related offenses including cannabis possession, sales or cultivation on their records. Dionne Dowdy, executive director of United Returning Citizens (URC), told a local television news team that URC Grows is an attempt to address the harms caused by the failed War on Drugs while ensuring that the economic benefits of legal cannabis are shared with the most impacted communities.

“There were so many people that were jailed by this and now that everyone is making money off something that they are already sitting in jail for, we want to give them an opportunity. Everyone needs a second chance and these are the things that they can do that [are] just natural to them, that they will thrive in, so why not give them this opportunity,” Dowdy said.

Dowdy added that she has already signed up two prior cannabis offenders for what she hopes will be an initial class of 10 students. Graduates of the cannabis job training program will be prepared to work in Ohio’s growing medical industry, which currently serves approximately 200,000 registered patients.

“We already have a problem with workforce now but if we’re taking the next people that are coming and we’re training them and giving them an opportunity; to have a job, to have a career, to take care of their family, not only would it help them – it would help our city, it would help our community, it will help with the crime,” Dowdy said.

Developing Cannabis Entrepreneurs

URC Grows will provide cannabis education and job training in three focused areas, with a certificate of completion awarded upon graduation from the program. Areas of study include: an agriculture program concentrating on hydroponics and aquaponics; an industrial hemp program designed to teach prospective farmers how to grow, process and sell hemp for fiber, grain, or CBD. The third track, a marijuana program, will provide education on cultivating medical-grade cannabis.

After completion of the first phase of focused education, students will begin a second phase that includes entrepreneur and business development training. This means, assistance with developing a business plan and the filing of required business documentation. Those who complete the initial two phases of training will be offered a job or internship with Riviera Creek Holdings or the opportunity to maintain and grow a hemp crop for their own hemp-based business. To support the program, URC has received a grant from the Hawthorne Social Justice Fund to help students buy land or cover the startup costs of their business.

“We at Riviera are intending to help build the overall course work, what it looks like and as they graduate, Riviera is intending to bring some of those in-house so they wind up with jobs right after graduation and we’re excited for that program to begin,” said Daniel Kessler, COO of Riviera Creek Holdings.

More Jobs Would Come with Adult-Use Legalization

Although Ohio’s cannabis industry is currently limited to serving medical marijuana patients, legislators and activists are currently working to legalize cannabis for all adults. In July, two Democratic state representatives from the Cleveland area introduced legislation that would legalize, tax and regulate adult-use cannabis. A separate effort by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was given approval to begin circulating petitions by state officials last month.

“It’s at the phase where it needs signatures,” said Daniel Kessler, who supports the effort to legalize recreational cannabis. “The goal is to approve adult use over the age of 21.”

Daniel Kessler said that Riviera Creek Holdings supports legal cannabis for adults as a way to replace the current system that forces consumers to accept untested and potentially unsafe cannabis while illicit cannabis operators face the threat of imprisonment.

“All of that becomes problematic for everybody,” he said. “If we can replace that with something that generates tax dollars for the state, controlled by the legislative body, works much like the medical program, and has social justice aspects to it – it shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

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Ohio Cultivator and Non-profit Organization Offer Education Program in Cultivation

An Ohio non-profit organization and a cannabis cultivator are working together to help individuals who have been incarcerated for cannabis-related charges to receive education in cannabis cultivation.

Riviera Creek Holdings LLC cannabis cultivator and United Returning Citizens (URC) organization, which are both based in Youngstown, Ohio, are partnering together to support a program called URC Grows. The program will provide educational and job opportunities for those who have been convicted of cannabis crimes.

URC is a non-profit organization that helps those who have been affected by mass incarceration. They assist individuals with job searches, training, financial support, education and so much more. Through URC Grows, the organization hopes to extend these services and more by partnering with Riviera Creek. “United Returning Citizens created an Education, Workforce and Business Development Training Program for the next generation of workers,” URC shares on its website. “This program will be comprehensive and unique due to the nature of program phases, and the ultimate goal of creating employment opportunities with the enrollees while they are in the course.”

Those interested in growing cannabis have plenty of options to do so, but URC’s program stands out from the crowd due to its special certification. “URC Grows seeks to be different by providing an Ohio Department of Education Approved Certification, in three focused areas. We will also provide entrepreneurial development services and land for each entrepreneur to grow on, or employment in a URC operated grow facility,” the website shares.

Dionne Dowdy, Executive Director of URC, told local news station WFMJ there is a great need for reform and support of those who have been negatively affected by cannabis charges. “There were so many people that were jailed by this and now that everyone is making money off something that they are already sitting in jail for, we want to give them an opportunity, everyone needs a second chance and these are the things that they can do that were just natural to them that they will thrive in so why not give them this opportunity,” Dowdy said.

Riviera Creek CEO Daniel Kessel added that it is imperative that this program help prepare students with everything they will need to get a job in the industry. “We at Riviera are intending to help build the overall course work, what it looks like and as they graduate, Riviera is intending to bring some of those in house so they wind up with jobs right after graduation and we’re excited for that program to begin,” said Kessel.

Three Programs in Ohio Teach All Angles of Cultivation

URC Grows is split up into three programs. The first includes an agriculture program with a focus on hydroponic and aquaponic education. The second is a full-scale education program that covers the process of hemp production, from growing to processing and sales. The final program includes a focus on medical cannabis, but will ideally prepare students for when recreational cannabis becomes legal.

Following the completion of these programs, students will be “offered the opportunity to maintain and grow their own hemp for their hemp based business or agricultural goods.”

URC is one of five organizations that received grant funds from the Hawthorne Social Justice Fund within the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation. On June 10, 2021, the Hawthorne Gardening Company announced that it would be granting $2.5 million in funds to organizations whose efforts support criminal justice reform and social equity applicants. URC, as well as Last Prisoner Project, Marijuana Policy Project Foundation, Minorities for Medical Marijuana and NuLeaf Project received support from this fund.

Dowdy added that supporting those who have been wronged by the War on Drugs can only be a boon for the city of Youngstown, Ohio. “We already have a problem with workforce now but if we’re taking the next people that are coming and we’re training them and giving them an opportunity to have a job, to have a career to take care of their family, not only would it help them, it would help our city, it would help our community, it will help with the crime,” she said about her hope for the program’s success.

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Ohio Cannabis Activists Get Nod to Collect Petition Signatures

Cannabis reform activists in Ohio can now circulate petitions for a cannabis legalization measure after receiving permission to begin collecting signatures to place the proposal before lawmakers.

The Ohio Ballot Board approved the proposed legalization measure from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) as a single issue on Monday, allowing the group to begin collecting the nearly 133,000 signatures necessary to submit the proposal to the legislature.

“We’re happy with today’s outcome and believe the ballot board made the right call on this one,” campaign spokesman Tom Haren said in a press release after receiving the green light to circulate petitions, adding that the group would begin collecting signatures “as soon as possible.” 

If the group collects at least 132,887 valid signatures, the proposal will head to the Ohio General Assembly for consideration by the legislature. If lawmakers decline to approve the measure or amend it, supporters could collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the proposal before voters, possibly as soon as the November 2022 general election.

Under the proposed statute, adults 21 and older would be permitted to possess and purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. Additionally, the proposal allows for the home cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by adults, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. Regulated, commercial cannabis production and sales would be legalized as well.

The legalization plan also levies a 10 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, with 36 percent of revenue going to local governments that host cannabis businesses and 25 percent dedicated to funding substance abuse programs. Another three percent of taxes raised would be used for operational costs to govern the legal cannabis program, with the remainder allocated to a cannabis social equity program to remedy disproportionate harms caused by the War on Drugs.

The proposal also allows local governments to opt out of allowing marijuana companies from operating within their jurisdictions, although that authority would not apply to existing medical marijuana businesses.

Earlier Ohio Petition Nixed By AG

In early August, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost rejected an initial draft of a summary of the cannabis legalization proposal. After reviewing the proposal to ensure it was a “fair and truthful” description of the law, Yost cited a list of seven deficiencies in the summary and returned it to supporters for correction. The attorney general wrote, for example, that the summary did not adequately explain the “cannabis social equity and jobs program” and did not clearly indicate that home growers are limited to possessing up to six cannabis plants.

“In total, the summary does not properly advise a potential signer of a proposed measure’s character and limitations,” Yost wrote in a letter to the group’s attorney.

Yost approved a revised version of the summary language on August 20, clearing the proposal for Monday’s consideration by the ballot board.

Although CRMLA could take the proposal to the voters if necessary, Haren says that the group is “laser focused” on getting the legislature to approve a legal source of cannabis in Ohio.

“The name really says it all,” Haren said. “We want to regulate marijuana like alcohol. By that, we mean restrict sales to people under 21 years of age. We want to make sure every product is tested, is produced here in Ohio by licensed cultivators or processors [and] sold at licensed dispensaries.”

Haren added that if the plan is approved by lawmakers, Ohio’s adult-use cannabis program could launch as quickly as within 90 days of the effective date of the new statute. But if the legislature balks at the proposal, he expects the legalization effort to succeed at the ballot box.

“It’s time for Ohio to take the next step,” Haren said. “We think this is something Ohioans support and are in favor of. We think it’s wildly popular among the voting public.”

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Cannabis Legalization Makes New Advances in the Midwest

The push to legalize cannabis in the Midwest is making new advances, with lawmakers in Wisconsin introducing a new bill and Ohio activists amending language for a proposed legalization measure. Meanwhile, regional early adopters Illinois and Michigan continue to post strong recreational marijuana sales with record-breaking months in July.

Last week, a group of Wisconsin lawmakers appeared at a cannabis dispensary in Illinois (where adult-use cannabis is legal) to unveil a bill that would legalize marijuana in the Badger State. Under the bill, adults 21 and over would be permitted to purchase and use recreational cannabis while adults 18 and up with debilitating health conditions would be allowed access to medical marijuana. Younger patients would be permitted to use cannabis medicinally with parental consent. Wisconsin currently has no provisions for legal cannabis, even as it is surrounded by four states with at least some form of legalized marijuana.

The lawmakers gathered at the Sunnyside dispensary in South Beloit, Illinois — only about 1,000 feet from the state border — to illustrate how many of the business’s customers are coming from Wisconsin. On an average day, half of the cars in the Sunnyside parking lot have Wisconsin license plates, according to South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl. At last week’s unveiling of the bill, Democratic Sen. Melissa Agard, who is the sponsor of the bill in the state Senate, said that cannabis legalization would be a good move for Wisconsin.

“Legalizing and taxing cannabis in Wisconsin just like we already do with alcohol ensures a controlled, safe market for our communities,” Agard said.

Fellow Democrat and Wisconsin State Assembly Rep. David Bowen noted that Wisconsin’s drug prohibition laws have not been enforced fairly and equitably.

“Under the failed war on drugs, enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws have disproportionately impacted communities of color,” said Bowen, the lead author of the legalization bill. “When an individual is arrested for nonviolent possession of marijuana, they are driven from their jobs, from their families and driven from their communities.”

Despite a 2019 Marquette University Law School poll showing that 59% of Wisconsin’s registered voters support cannabis legalization, approval of the bill in the state’s Republican-led legislature does not seem likely, according to media reports. Agard said that the sponsoring lawmakers will be circulating the bill for two weeks in order to gain co-sponsors before moving forward with the legislation.

Ohio Activists Resubmit Cannabis Legalization Petition Summary

In Ohio, citizens rather than lawmakers are leading the drive to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The cannabis reform group the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol resubmitted petition language for a proposed legalization measure. In early August, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost rejected an earlier draft of a summary of the proposal, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess, purchase, use and grow marijuana. After reviewing the proposal to ensure it was a “fair and truthful” description of the law, Yost cited a list of seven deficiencies in the summary and returned it to supporters for correction. The attorney general wrote, for example, that the summary did not adequately explain the “cannabis social equity and jobs program” and did not clearly indicate that home growers are limited to possessing up to six cannabis plants.

“In total, the summary does not properly advise a potential signer of a proposed measure’s character and limitations,” Yost wrote in a letter to the group’s attorney.

Last Friday, supporters of the proposal resubmitted the summary after addressing the deficiencies noted by Yost.

“We appreciate the attorney general’s feedback on our initial filing, and have fully addressed the issues flagged in this updated filing” coalition spokesman Tom Haren said in a news release.

Once the summary is approved, supporters of the legalization proposal will be able to begin collecting petition signatures from Ohio registered voters. If the group collects at least 132,887 valid signatures, the proposal will head to the Ohio General Assembly for consideration. If lawmakers fail to approve the measure, supporters could collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the proposal before voters, perhaps as soon as the Nov. 2022 general election.

Midwest Cannabis Sales Break Records

If Wisconsin and Ohio successfully join the ranks of the states that have legalized cannabis in the Midwest, they will be able to tap into a market that continues to grow for the region’s early adopters of marijuana policy reform. On Aug. 3, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation reported that adult-use cannabis sales totaled $127.8 million in July, breaking a state record set only two months earlier by 10 percent. Jason Erkes, spokesman for Chicago-based cannabis multistate operator Cresco Labs, said that visitors attending the Lollapalooza music festival at the end of the month helped fuel the strong showing.

“Summer tourism and the Lollapalooza attendees were strong contributors to July’s out-of-state sales,” Erkes said.

Legal marijuana sales are breaking records in Michigan, as well. Last week, the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) released cannabis sales figures for July. Together, medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis sales totaled $171 million, generating more than $23 million in tax revenue. MRA executive director Andrew Brisbo characterized July’s cannabis sales as “Another record month!”

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Episode 371 – Where Cannabis Reform is Headed

Mike Liszewski and Brian Adams join host Heather Sullivan to talk about the future of cannabis reform at the local level, what 2022 could hold for the reform of psychedelic laws, and the latest developments in Ohio for legalized adult use marijuana. Produced by Shea Gunther.