Ohio campaign aiming to legalize marijuana submits signatures to send the proposed measure to the state legislature

On Dec. 20, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 206,943 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office for a ballot initiative aiming to legalize marijuana in the state. 

The measure is an indirect initiated state statute meaning that the state legislature will have an opportunity to pass the law without it going to the ballot. The required number of signatures to place the initiative before the state legislature is 132,887, which is 3% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election. The initiative petition must also meet the state’s signature distribution requirement, which requires that half of the signature requirement be met within at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. If the state legislature does not act on the proposed law or rejects it, the campaign would have 90 days to collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the measure on the November 2022 ballot.

The deadline for proposed initiated state statutes to file signature petitions was Dec. 24. The marijuana initiative was the only proposed state statute to be cleared for signature gathering by the Ohio Ballot Board.

Tom Haren, a spokesperson for the campaign, said, “The success of our petition drive shows just how eager Ohioans are to end prohibition and legalize the adult use of marijuana. 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.” 

The initiative would enact a state law to legalize the cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, possession, home growth, and use of recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older. Adults could possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. Individuals would be able to grow six marijuana plants at home or up to 12 plants per household.

The initiative would also enact a 10% cannabis tax rate on adult-use sales with revenue to fund “a cannabis social equity and jobs program” to “provide financial assistance and license application support to individuals most directly and adversely impacted by the enforcement of marijuana-related laws.” It would also fund the community cannabis fund, the substance abuse and addiction fund, and the Division of Cannabis Control (established by the initiative to oversee the state’s cannabis industry).

In 2015, Ohio voters defeated an initiated constitutional amendment that would have legalized the limited sale and use of marijuana and created 10 facilities with exclusive commercial rights to grow marijuana. The vote margin was 63.65% to 36.35%. The initiative was sponsored by ResponsibleOhio PAC.

As of December 2021, 18 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized marijuana for recreational purposes: 12 through citizen initiatives, one through a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, and six through bills approved by state legislatures and signed by governors. An additional 13 states had decriminalized recreational marijuana usage. In those states, while recreational marijuana usage was illegal, violation typically results in a fine rather than arrest or jail time for first-time offenders.

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