Recreational marijuana enthusiasts get closer to legalizing weed in Ohio

Rally supporting legalization of cannabis in Ohio
Posted at 5:55 PM, May 08, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Recreational marijuana advocates have started to collect signatures to put weed on the ballot this November.

The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Coalition is now collecting petition signatures from people like Sam from Cleveland to change state law.

"Yeah, I'm for it," she said. "I think people can be very functional on it."

It would legalize and regulate recreational weed to adults 21 years of age and older. Individual Ohioans would also be able to grow up to six plants, but up to 12 per household.

This proposal would also impose a 10% tax at the point of sale for each transaction, which activists say would raise $350 to $400 million in new tax revenue annually.

"Legalizing and regulating marijuana is good policy," said Tom Haren with the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Coalition. "It makes sure that marijuana stays out of the hands of kids, it increases tax revenue to states and it starts the process of eliminating the illicit market."

As expected, not everyone supports the proposal, like Lou Tobin with the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

"We're hopeful that the public will see it for what it is, which is something that's dangerous for the public, dangerous for drivers," Tobin said. "We feel like... it's not something that most people across the state of Ohio want."

People who support the proposal say Ohioans do want it, but there will be a challenge of showing support in time. The group only has two months to get 124,000 signatures from 44 of Ohio's 88 counties.

"Let me be clear: we are going to submit the required number of signatures by July 5 to get it on the ballot this November," Haren said.

Tobin, for his part, is encouraging voters to learn about the public safety aspect.

"I think we're just heading down a really dangerous road in terms of this laissez-faire attitude towards what's what's called Schedule I substance," the prosecutor added.

He also emphasized the workforce productivity factor, but Sam said that isn't and wouldn't be a problem.

"Do it in the evenings, weekends or when you're not working," Sam said. "Don't do it when you work."

In 2020, Cleveland eliminated penalties for possession of up to 200 grams of cannabis. News 5 continues to cover marijuana laws, convictions and expungements in Northeast Ohio.

RELATED: One-day expungement and record sealing event in Cleveland

Initiated statutes

The pro-marijuana groups are putting forward an initiated statute, which means it may not be permanent like constitutional amendments typically are. This is why the weed proposal needs significantly fewer signatures than the abortion initiative, which is a constitutional amendment.

Technically, if the marijuana petition makes the ballot and passes, the lawmakers could turn around and reverse it by putting forward a new law outlawing marijuana or changing its provisions.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) is against recreational marijuana in Ohio.

"It won't pass," Huffman's spokesperson John Fortney told News 5.

When asked if Huffman would try to reverse it if it passes, the spokesperson said he couldn't speculate on that yet.

"Our members don't support recreational marijuana; it is a terrible policy," Fortney added.

However, bipartisan support for recreational weed is growing inside the Statehouse.

For previous reporting by Morgan Trau and other News 5 reporters on marijuana laws, see below:

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.