Marijuana legalization campaign to continue signature gathering in Ohio for 2023 ballot

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the campaign supporting a marijuana legalization initiative in Ohio, began collecting a second round of signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot on Nov. 7, 2023.

Previously, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol submitted 136,729 valid signatures to the secretary of state in two separate rounds of signature gathering–the first submission of 206,943 signatures on Dec. 20, 2021, and the second submission of 29,918 signatures on Jan. 13, 2022. In Ohio, if a campaign is short of a valid signature requirement after they submit signatures, they have a one-week cure period to collect additional signatures. The secretary of state announced the number of signatures validated on Jan. 28, 2022.

On April 29, 2022, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol filed a lawsuit against state legislative leaders, arguing that legislative leaders claimed that signatures weren’t submitted in time. In a series of emails, state legislators claimed that a legislative vote can’t take place because valid signatures were not submitted 10 days prior to the start of the legislative period. The coalition and state legislative leaders ended and settled the lawsuit, allowing the coalition to resubmit the first 132,887 collected signatures at the start of the 2023 legislative session.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose put the initiative to the Ohio General Assembly at the start of their legislative session. In Ohio, initiated state statutes are indirect, meaning the state legislature must either approve the initiative, allowing it to become law, or not approving it, and letting it go to the ballot for voters to decide. The state legislature has four months to either approve the initiative, reject it, or not act on it. If the state legislature does not act on the measure or rejects it, the campaign supporting the initiative has another 90 days to collect the second round of signatures.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has 90 days to collect another additional round of signatures, starting on May 5, 2023. An initiative would need 124,046 signatures in the second round to qualify for the 2023 ballot.

Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spokesman Tom Haren said, “It’s going to be on the ballot and it’s going to pass. Ohio consumers will not have to rely on their drug dealers or go to Michigan. They will be able to have safe, effective and regulated adult use of cannabis right here in the Buckeye State. … The primary way that it will help Ohio is it’ll provide an alternative to the illicit and unregulated market.”

The initiative would legalize the use, possession, cultivation, and sale of recreational marijuana for adults over 21 years old. It would also enact a 10% cannabis tax rate on adult-use sales. Currently, 21 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes, and 37 states and D.C. had legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) opposes the measure, saying, “I do not … support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. I have seen the negative effects it has had in states that have legalized it and fear that it would also lead to increased use by underage kids and that small children could consume marijuana-laced foods that look like candy.”

As of May 8, there were no ballot measures on the Nov. 7, 2023, general election ballot in Ohio. There were five potential measures that could make the ballot, including the marijuana legalization measure.

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