By / November 8, 2023

Ohio Votes to Legalize Cannabis

Ohio cast its votes yesterday, Tuesday, November 7, in favor of legalizing cannabis. The Buckeye State thus becomes the 24th U.S. state to legalize cannabis. 53% of the American population now has legal access to cannabis within their state, while cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.

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Regulating Cannabis in Ohio Like Alcohol

The adoption of Issue 2, defended by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA), marks a turning point in the stance on cannabis in Ohio. Not only does this measure grant people aged 21 and over the opportunity to purchase, possess, and grow cannabis, but it also sets up a comprehensive regulatory framework governing the industry.

Legalization Details and Provisions

The legalization measure, called Issue 2, now allows the possession of 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of cannabis for adults and the cultivation of up to six plants for personal use in Ohio, with a maximum of 12 plants for households composed of two or more adults. The initiative introduces a 10% sales tax on cannabis, with the revenue allocated to various goals such as supporting social equity and employment programs, aiding localities that permit adult-use cannabis businesses, funding education programs and substance abuse prevention, and covering the administrative costs related to the implementation of the system.

The approved measure provides for the creation of a Division of Cannabis Control within the state’s Department of Commerce, which will have the power to grant licenses, regulate, investigate, and sanction operators of adult-use cannabis, testing laboratories, and license holders. The legislation gives a head start in the recreational market to existing medical cannabis businesses, encouraging their quick transition to the adult-use sector. Moreover, provisions prioritize applications from participants in the social equity and employment program in the cannabis sector, thus promoting a fair and inclusive industrial landscape.

Broader Impact Beyond Ohio

The impact of the Ohio decision could extend beyond its borders. Indiana and Kentucky, two neighboring states, are among the few American states that still do not have a medical cannabis program. In Kentucky, therapeutic cannabis will not be effective until 2025. West Virginia has a medical cannabis program, but it is very restrictive.

Challenges Along the Way

However, the road to legalization has been fraught with obstacles: legal battles, legislative reviews, and finally, an electoral initiative. Activists and proponents had to face challenges, including unsuccessful attempts to place the measure on the ballot in 2020 and 2022. Yet, after several cycles of submission and review, Issue 2 gained voter approval, highlighting the clear stance of Ohio residents on the future of cannabis in their state.

National Trend Towards Cannabis Reform

The victory in Ohio reflects a broader national trend of growing support for cannabis reform. Matthew Schweich, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, notes significant support for legalization, underscoring the momentum underlying public sentiment in favor of cannabis reform. However, concerns persist, particularly regarding possible interference from the state legislature, which retains the power to amend or repeal voter-approved initiatives.

Economic Implications and Industry Prospects

The legalization of recreational cannabis in Ohio will have profound implications for the state’s economy and the cannabis industry as a whole. Projections foresee a multi-billion dollar market in the Midwest, with estimates anticipating substantial sales figures in the first year following legalization and a marked upward trajectory in the following years.

The legislation opens doors for operators established in multiple states and local businesses, which should facilitate consumer access to cannabis and market expansion.

Social Equity and Revenue Allocation in Ohio

The provisions of the legislation concerning social equity and the allocation of tax revenue to assist disadvantaged groups underline the commitment to address equity within the industry. Nonetheless, opposition from certain quarters, including professional organizations in Ohio and concerns about workplace safety, persists despite the measure’s adoption.

Ohio also voted to enshrine the right to abortion.

(Featured image by Oz Seyrek via Unsplash)

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