Ohio could become 24th state to legalize marijuana if voters approve initiative in November

Ohio voters will decide on an initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use on Nov. 7.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) announced on Aug. 16 that the measure qualified for the ballot after the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than the required number of valid signatures.

The initiative would legalize the use, possession, cultivation, and sale of recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older. Under the measure, adults would be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates and be able to grow six marijuana plants at home or up to 12 plants per household. A 10% tax on marijuana sales would also be established, with the revenue going to a cannabis social equity and jobs program.

The coalition submitted 222,198 signatures to the secretary of state’s office on July 5, 2023. The initiative needed 124,046 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, but the campaign was found to be short by 679 signatures. Proponents were given a 10-day cure periodto submit an additional round of signatures, which were submitted on Aug. 3.

Tom Haren, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said, “We are grateful to the thousands of Ohioans who helped us get to this point and are excited to bring our proposal to regulate marijuana like alcohol before Ohio voters this coming election day.”

If voters approve the initiative, Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize marijuana for adult use. Twenty-three other states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana through a mix of citizen initiatives, legislative referrals to the ballot, and bills enacted into law.

In 12 states and D.C., the ballot initiative process was used to legalize marijuana. In two states, the legislature referred a measure to the ballot for voter approval. In nine states, bills to legalize marijuana were enacted into law. The 2022 elections saw the addition of two states to this list, as Maryland and Missouri approved marijuana legalization measures, while Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota rejected similar proposals. The most recent measure on the ballot to legalize recreational marijuana was in Oklahoma on March 7, 2023, and it was defeated with 38% voting ‘yes’ and 61% voting ‘no’.

Based on campaign finance information through June 30, 2023, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol reported $4.62 million in contributions and $4.68 million in expenditures. The largest donor was the Marijuana Policy Project, which provided $2.52 million.

On Aug. 15, a campaign to oppose the marijuana legalization initiative, Protect Ohio Workers and Families, was launched.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Ohio in 2016. Recreational marijuana is illegal in Ohio. Ohio voters previously defeated Issue 3, a marijuana legalization initiative that was on the ballot in 2015. Issue 3 would have legalized marijuana and authorized 10 facilities with exclusive commercial rights to grow marijuana.

Ohio voters will also be deciding on an amendment to provide a state constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including decisions about abortion, in Nov. On Aug. 8, 2023, voters rejected Issue 1—a constitutional amendment that would have required a 60% vote to approve constitutional amendments, increased the signature distribution requirement for citizen-initiated amendments, and eliminated the signature cure period for citizen-initiated amendments. Issue 1 would have affected the abortion-related initiative, which is a constitutional amendment, but not the marijuana legalization initiative, which is a proposed statute.

Additional reading:

Ohio 2023 ballot measures

Marijuana laws and ballot measures in the United States