In a pivotal decision set for the November 2023 general election, Ohio voters will determine whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults. If approved, Ohio will join the ranks of 23 other states that have already embraced recreational cannabis, marking a significant shift from its established medical marijuana program that has steadily expanded since its inception in 2016.
The initiative, spearheaded by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, seeks to grant legal status to cannabis for individuals aged 21 and above. Ohio voters could join neighboring Michigan in legalizing cannabis by approving what is called Issue 2. Early voting has already started for the election.
Details of the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Law
Details of the proposal can be found in the official initiative text. Under the proposed legislation, Ohio residents would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in various forms, and cultivate a maximum of six plants per person at home, or up to 12 plants per household.
Additionally, sales of marijuana would be subject to a 10% tax, with the proceeds allocated towards the regulation of the program, support for communities hosting cannabis facilities, the establishment of a “cannabis social equity and jobs fund” and funding for addiction services.
A July poll conducted by the USA Today Network in collaboration with Suffolk University revealed that a majority of Ohio voters (58.6%) are in favor of legalization. The survey also highlighted a significant generation gap in opinions, with a resounding 76% of respondents aged 18-34 expressing support, compared to 43% among those 65 and older.
However, it’s important to note that even if voters give the green light, the long-term fate of legalization remains uncertain. Since this is a citizen-initiated statute rather than a constitutional amendment, state lawmakers retain the authority to potentially repeal or modify the program post-election.
Potential Changes if Ohio Marijuana Legalization Passes
Kyle Kondik, the Managing Editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, suggests that Republicans may feel empowered to counter the public sentiment, particularly with an eye on what they perceive as a favorable presidential election year in 2024.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has come out against the proposal, saying passage of it “would be a mistake.” He claimed that potency of marijuana is higher under a legal system and argued it would send a message to kids that it’s OK to use cannabis.
Studies have found that marijuana use among teens has not increased, and has actually dropped, in states where cannabis is legal.
The proposal would also address social equity issues, as has been the case in other states. Under the proposal, Ohio would create a cannabis social equity and jobs program and require the Department of Development to certify program applicants based on social and economic disadvantage. The state would define “social disadvantage” to include members of a racial or ethnic minority group, disability status, gender or long-term residence in an area of high unemployment.