Ohioans are set to make a crucial decision this upcoming autumn regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana, as Secretary of State Frank LaRose revealed on Wednesday evening.
The proposed statute, which will be presented alongside a constitutional amendment related to abortion rights and various local elections, including the race for mayor and city council in Columbus, will be featured on the ballot scheduled for November 7.
The core objective of the statute is to grant legal status to the sale, purchase, and possession of cannabis for adults aged 21 and above, commonly referred to as “adult-use.” As outlined in the draft law, residents of Ohio meeting the age requirement would also be permitted to cultivate a limited number of cannabis plants within their residences. More comprehensive details regarding the proposal can be accessed here.
Having faced a shortage of signatures to qualify for ballot inclusion at the end of July, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol disclosed on August 3 that it had furnished a substantial number of additional signatures to the secretary of state’s office. These supplementary signatures underwent a verification process over the subsequent two weeks, confirming the coalition’s successful attainment of the required signature threshold for the upcoming fall ballot.
Initially, the coalition had presented 222,198 signatures. Of these, a minimum of 124,046 signatures necessitated validation by the boards of elections in Ohio’s counties. The coalition narrowly missed this target, thereby availing itself of the 10-day period granted by Ohio law to secure supplementary signatures.
Upon resubmission, the coalition delivered an additional 6,459 signatures. Among these, 4,405 signatures were certified as valid by the county boards of election.
According to a recent poll conducted by Suffolk University in collaboration with USA Today, nearly 59% of potential Ohio voters expressed their intention to cast their votes in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. A mere 6.6% remained undecided, with 34.8% expressing opposition to the proposal.
Should the proposal be accepted, the state intends to impose a 10% tax on all adult-use marijuana transactions, in addition to the prevailing state sales tax. A portion of the resulting tax revenue is earmarked for equity initiatives and job programs, in accordance with the provisions outlined in the proposed law.
Up until July, the coalition amassed approximately $2.96 million in contributions, as documented in its latest campaign finance filing. However, the available cash on hand at the time of filing stood at approximately $9,500. The most substantial contributor thus far has been the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization based in Washington D.C. that advocates for comprehensive reforms in marijuana policies.
Even before the initiative secured a spot on the ballot, a coalition opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana emerged earlier in the same week. Notable participants in this coalition include the Ohio branches of the Children’s Hospital Association, the Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, among other organizations.
Given that the initiative is being presented as a statute initiated by the public rather than a constitutional amendment, the state legislature retains the authority to modify the proposal should it be ratified in the November elections. In fact, legislators possess the ability to outright overturn the statute if they choose to do so.