After Years of Legalized Medical Use, Ohio Gets Its First Recreational Marijuana Bill
There are challenges ahead, but it's a brand new chapter for the Buckeye State.
There is always the first attempt for everything, and when it comes to cannabis, all first efforts at legalization spark a lot of frenzy and interest. People want to know how it will go, who is leading the charge, and how the state will respond to it. These are the questions and considerations in the minds of the residents of Ohio.
For the first time in the state's history, the lawmakers in Ohio are presenting a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, which cuts across the cultivation and sale process. The bill was drafted by House reps Terrence Upchurch from Cleveland and Casey Weinstein from Hudson (Democrat).
Both house reps agree that the motivation to draft the bill stems from the economic and medical benefits that marijuana offers societies where it is legalized. They are both seeking more cosponsors to hasten the process of getting the ill into the house and create Ohio's first regulated marijuana market.
Exciting but tricky
Although this is exciting news for cannabis enthusiasts in Ohio, the bill still faces a tricky process because GOP-Members primarily dominate the Ohio legislature. Those same GOP members scantily legalize a proposed medical cannabis program five years ago. The proposed marijuana law, which was quickly passed to avoid a ballot, would have enabled the amendment of the Ohio constitution on marijuana.
Weinstein maintains that the state of Ohio is at a critical point: the state will end up trailing behind other states if the house does nothing about legalizing marijuana. He hopes this proposed legislation will be a bi-partisan victory that will enable conversations that will lead to full-blown legalization.
Will the democratic reps succeed this time?
The purpose of the bill
With this proposed bill, adults in Ohio from 21 years of age will be allowed to purchase and gain access to 5 ounces of cannabis at a time. The legalized adults can also cultivate up to 12 mature marijuana plants for personal and non-commercial use. The bill also allows villages, counties, and cities to limit the kind of cannabis businesses they will allow within their borders.
The new Ohio bill is drafted after Michigan's cannabis market, with senators saying it will sustain the Ohio medical cannabis program, which was approved in 2016 and implemented in 2019. People who cultivate, process, and sell medical marijuana through dispensaries will be given recreational ones.
In a move to ensure effective regulation, the Ohio State Department of Commerce will be in charge of this newly created marijuana industry. Ohio residents with non-violent criminal records for cannabis crimes will have all their records sealed and participate in the recently legalized industry.
There is a proposed 10% excise tax added to the local and state sales of cannabis products. The excise tax proceeds will be used to fund infrastructural development such as roads, education, bridge repair, and other local government projects.
Ohio's tax rate will match that of Michigan but lower than other states such as Illinois and Colorado. Within the first two years, about $2 million of yearly proceeds will be allotted to research to treat veterans with peculiar medical issues and averting the high rate of veteran suicide.
The legalization bill comprises a social equity aspect that encourages people of color and marginalized individuals to join forces with the state to boost the newly formed cannabis industry.
Legalized marijuana hasn't made much progress in Ohio
Before this new bill, six years ago, the residents of Ohio voted for a constitutional change that will legalize cannabis. However, the changes entail marijuana growing at ten pre-chosen sites managed by investors on the amendment team. But his move failed as 64% of the Ohio voters voted against it.
Not wanting to stay down for too long, the Ohio lawmakers introduced another restrictive medical cannabis program. This new program took two years to establish, with the first marijuana sale happening in January 2019.
Subsequently, a bill was presented in 2021 named "House Bill 210," which will allow people to cultivate cannabis plants and aid in removing some marijuana-related offenses. The ill hasn't received a hearing yet, even after Rep. Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland presented an accompanying bill; that decriminalizes cannabis use and possession in 2020. That bill also didn't get a single hearing, and it is again a testament to the fact that Ohio hasn't made much progress with its marijuana legalization process.
But there is much more optimism with this new proposal by Reps. Weinstein and Cleveland that it may become Ohio's bold step into harnessing the potentials of its marijuana market.
A new chapter for the state of Ohio
Although Gov. Mike DeWine (Republican) may oppose the new legislative direction for marijuana, he will have to fight with the reality that Ohio voters are ready to support the initiative. Already, 22 jurisdictions have accepted local marijuana statutes, which will reduce the penalty for low-level marijuana possession.
As opposed to serving jail time and paying a fine as punishment for marijuana possession, it was reduced to what is termed a minor penalty permitted by state law. Marijuana activists are currently trying to ensure that there are similar policy changes in other cities this year.
Marijuana enthusiasts maintain that Ohio is not the first state to do something about cannabis legalization. It is about the 26th state, which makes this period the perfect time o get on with this new chapter.
Just as Ohio looked to states like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Colorado for inspiration, other states can also look to it as they strive to become more cannabis-friendly.
Every state that has legalized marijuana had the same challenges as Ohio. In fact, for some states, it seemed like legalization wasn't within reach because of the political tussle between Democrats and Republicans in each house. Yet, they scaled through their differences and made it work for the good of the people and the advancement of the marijuana industry.
Ohio has taken a bold step even if there are still some ideas to sort out, but this is encouraging, and it will position the state as one that is ready to enter a new and productive terrain with marijuana.