Voters in Ohio will decide on an initiative, Issue 2, to legalize marijuana on Nov. 7.
Issue 2 is not the first marijuana legalization that has been on the ballot in Ohio. In 2015, Ohio voters rejected an initiative, Issue 3, with 64% voting against the measure. The two initiatives differ in how facilities would be licensed, how much marijuana could be possessed and grown, how marijuana would be taxed, and how tax revenue would be spent.
Issue 3 of 2015 would have legalized the sale and use of marijuana and would have created 10 facilities with exclusive rights to grow marijuana commercially. Anyone 21 years or older with a license purchased from the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission would have been able to use, possess, grow, cultivate, and share up to eight ounces of homegrown marijuana and four flowering marijuana plants. Anyone 21 years or older (with or without a license) would have been able to purchase, possess, transport, use, and share up to one ounce of marijuana.
Issue 2 would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 years old and older, who would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. People would be permitted to cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home, while households could cultivate up to 12 combined plants.
Responding to Issue 3, the Ohio State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the ballot in 2015. That amendment was designed to prevent ballot measures from creating monopolies or granting special privileges to non-public entities or individuals.
The 2023 initiative does not authorize any specific facilities but rather provides for cultivator and dispensary licenses similar to how the state currently licenses and regulates medical marijuana facilities. The 2023 initiative would authorize 50 new dispensary licenses and 40 new cultivator licenses. The initiative would create the Division of Cannabis Control, which would be responsible for regulating and licensing marijuana operators and facilities and would oversee the compliance and standardization of marijuana businesses and production in Ohio. Licensing for distributing facilities would take up to nine months after the law takes effect 30 days after approval (December 7) if it is approved.
Under Issue 2, marijuana sales would be taxed at 10%, with 36% of tax revenues dedicated to the cannabis social equity and jobs fund; 36% to the host community cannabis facilities fund; 25% to the substance abuse and addiction fund; and 3% to the division of cannabis control and tax commission fund.
The 2015 initiative would have taxed marijuana production facility gross revenue at 15% and marijuana retail stores at 5% with revenue dedications to the municipal and township government stabilization fund; strong county fund; and the marijuana control commission fund.
The 2015 initiative did not receive endorsements from pro-legalization PACs such as the Marijuana Policy Project. The Marijuana Policy Project supports Issue 2 on the 2023 ballot and has been the largest donor to the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, having given $2.5 million to the campaign.
If voters approve the initiative, Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize marijuana for recreational and personal use. If rejected, it will be the second time voters in Ohio defeated a marijuana initiative.