The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
A group pushing for recreational marijuana in Ohio is one step closer to the ballot after the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 200,000-plus signatures to state officials. Now county boards of elections begin the work of verifying signatures.
The coalition’s plan would allow Ohioans over 21 to possess, use, and purchase cannabis. They propose a 10% tax on sales that would fund social equity and addiction programs. Another portion of that revenue would bolster the general funds of cities that choose to allow dispensaries within their borders. The plan would even allow adults to grow a limited amount of cannabis at home.
“The success of our petition drive shows just how eager Ohioans are to end prohibition and legalize the adult use of marijuana,” coalition spokesman Tom Haren said in a press release. “We look forward to receiving the results of the Secretary of State’s review, and are eager to begin working with legislators on this important issue.”
Signature gatherers overshot the required threshold of 132,877 by about 70,000 to provide a buffer for any signatures that get thrown out. So long as they meet the required overall number and get a designated portion from at least 44 of the state’s counties, the proposal goes to state lawmakers. If lawmakers choose not to approve the measure, the coalition has the chance to get another round of signatures to put their proposal on the ballot.
At this point, the ballot seems like the most likely path to approval, but that doesn’t mean the GOP-controlled legislature is blind to the shortcomings in Ohio’s existing marijuana program. Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, has shepherded a measure through the Senate that would make significant under-the-hood changes to the state’s marijuana policy while leaving the overall structure intact. That bill passed the Senate last week.
But provisions like allowing homegrown marijuana are a non-starter for Huffman.
“Because that’s recreational marijuana,” Huffman said in a November interview about his bill. “If you’re going to grow five for your medical purpose, you know, the neighbor kids going to steal one, [and] you’re going to sell a couple.”
And Huffman isn’t alone. A recent poll conducted by Gongwer News Service shed light on how much the ground is shifting when it comes to marijuana — 43% of Republican lawmakers supported adult use, dead even with those who oppose it. But when it comes to homegrown marijuana, the GOP is far more unified in its opposition. When it comes to personal use, 64% of GOP members registered opposition and 86% said they are against people growing cannabis for commercial use.
Assuming the coalition’s signatures meet requirements, lawmakers have four months to act on their proposal.