Initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio submitted to state legislature

On Jan. 4, 2022, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) sent a letter to legislative leaders announcing that he is resubmitting to the Ohio General Assembly an indirect citizen-initiated measure to legalize the use of recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and over. 

The initiative was originally filed in 2021 by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and signatures were submitted at the end of 2021. Due to disagreements about the timeline for submitting signatures and legislative consideration, the campaign filed a lawsuit against legislative leaders in 2022. A settlement allowed for the signatures to be submitted at the start of the 2023 legislative session.

“The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pleased that our proposal was re-transmitted to the Ohio General Assembly and that the secretary of state clarified that the General Assembly’s four-month clock to consider our proposal has begun,” said Tom Haren, a spokesperson for the campaign.

In Ohio, the state legislature will now have four months to consider the proposal. If the measure does not pass the legislature, it may appear on the ballot for Ohio voters on November 7, 2023.

Haren stated, “As we have always said, we intend to work with legislative leadership in good faith to legalize marijuana for all adults through the legislative process. If the General Assembly fails to act, however, we will place our proposal before Ohio voters this November and it will pass.”

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in 21 states. Marijuana was most recently legalized statewide in Maryland and Missouri in 2022 by ballot measures in those states (measures in South Dakota, Arkansas, and North Dakota failed to pass in 2022). Petitions are also currently circulating in Florida and Nebraska to put the question to voters on the 2024 ballot.

Ohio voters may see the issue on their ballots in 2023, depending on whether or not the General Assembly passes the measure and the campaign collects a second round of signatures after the legislative period.

Initially, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol filed 206,943 signatures to the secretary of state in December 2021. Of these signatures, 119,825 were found valid by Secretary LaRose on Jan. 3, 2022, but 13,062 more were needed. In Ohio, campaigns are given an additional week to collect more signatures. The campaign submitted 29,918 additional signatures on January 13, 2022, and the state legislature did not decide on the measure within the four-month window. Additionally, the committee became aware of conversations among legislative officials and the attorney general’s office pertaining to whether or not it submitted signatures in time, due to the interpretation of the Ohio Constitution regarding the signature deadline. This prompted the committee to file a lawsuit, and the settlement allowed for the submission of their collected signatures at the start of the 2023 legislative session rather than starting the process over again.

The Ohio General Assembly will have four months to vote on the measure. If they vote to reject the measure or take no action on it, an additional number of signatures will be required to place the initiative on the ballot for Ohio voters in 2023. An additional number of signatures that is equal to 3% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election are required to place the initiative on the ballot.

The last citizen initiative on the Ohio ballot was in 2018, a measure relating to drug offenses that was defeated by voters. From 1985 to 2022, 24 citizen initiatives appeared on the ballot in Ohio. Eight of those measures were approved and 16 were defeated.

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