Does Ohio Marijuana Legalization Signal a Shift in Red States?

Voters in Ohio, traditionally a conservative red state, joined the 23 other states with legal recreational marijuana after approving a ballot measure in November. And the vote wasn’t close, with 57% of voters in favor and 43% opposed. Does this 14% winning margin for Ohio marijuana legalization signal a shift in opinion in red states, where Republicans typically oppose legalization?

Some say that’s not the case. They pointed to recent defeats of marijuana legalization efforts in Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and South Dakota – all red states. Republicans in Ohio have already vowed to amend the new law, which they said only passed because an abortion issue on the ballot turned out large numbers of Democrats.

Whatever comes next, Ohio marijuana legalization is a landmark moment for cannabis advocates. More than half of the U.S. population – 53% – now reside in states where recreational marijuana use is legal. This represents a significant milestone in the nation’s ongoing transformation of its stance on the drug, signaling a substantial change in approach.

“To see this campaign win so comfortably in a non-presidential year in a red state shows how far the cannabis reform movement has come,” Matthew Schweich, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told the Washington Post.

More Details on Ohio Marijuana Legalization

Under the new Ohio law, those 21 and older can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and cultivate up to six plants. A key component of the measure is the establishment of a Division of Cannabis Control that is tasked with the creation and oversight of the adult-use cannabis market.

To ensure a smooth transition, the regulations prioritize existing medical marijuana operators in entering the adult-use market. However, the framework also allows for the licensing of additional operators based on cannabis market demands.

A 10% tax will be imposed on cannabis sales, with projections from an Ohio State University report indicating an anticipated annual revenue of about $300 million for the state.

Ohio voters have previously rejected a legalization proposal in 2015. However, that was due in large part to language that would have made it easy for the campaign’s 10 wealthiest donors to run the industry, according to Politico.

Florida Could Be Next Legalization Battleground

Florida, which has become a red state since 2016, may become the next battleground for cannabis legalization. An initiative is planned for the 2024 ballot in Florida, but the state’s Republican attorney general, Ashley Moody, is challenging it before the state supreme court.

Meanwhile, initiatives in both Texas and Wisconsin have stalled, as have those in Kansas, due to the efforts of GOP lawmakers. They also have successfully stalled federal legalization in Congress, with little sign of change without Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives.

With legalization stalled, President Joe Biden has called for decriminalization of cannabis, including a review by the U.S. Department of Justice of marijuana’s place as a Schedule I illegal drug at the federal level.

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