With marijuana law, do what’s right for Ohio | News, Sports, Jobs

Legalized recreational marijuana is on the minds of Ohio lawmakers once again, and if the legislation is passed, it would legalize, tax and regulate adult use of cannabis in Ohio.

The clock has started ticking again on an initiative that could put recreational marijuana up for a statewide vote this November.

A group of marijuana businesses calling itself the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is attempting to push the hand of Ohio’s legislators.

The Ohio Legislature has four months to consider the recreational marijuana proposal submitted by the coalition. The proposed law is part of a legal process through which citizens can propose changes in state law.

That means the General Assembly has until May 3 to pass the law, which would create a single state agency to regulate marijuana, the Division of Cannabis Control. Currently there are state regulators in medical marijuana. If the initiative is approved, people age 21 and older could buy marijuana for recreational use.

Marijuana purchasers would be taxed 10 percent at the point of sale for each transaction.

Here’s the hitch.

If state lawmakers don’t act on time, or if they pass an amended version, the initiative’s backers could take steps to put the original law up for a vote in November. Either way, they believe they will succeed in passing a recreational marijuana law.

First, though, they would have to collect valid signatures from roughly 126,000 registered voters from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties before a legal deadline, the next step in a process that already has required the group to gather tens of thousands of signatures.

Some advocates suggest the state is missing out on a lucrative revenue stream by keeping recreational marijuana illegal.

“Michigan just up north has made marijuana a $2 billion industry and has employed over 30,000 people. So when we’re right underneath them, it makes you look and think should we be getting in on that too,” advocate Sean Nestor has told WTVG out of Toledo.

From our vantage point, generating new tax money should not be the driving force for creating a new industry legalizing and regulating what many Ohioans still view as a vice.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol tried to pursue its recreational marijuana proposal in 2022, Cleveland.com reports. But after the group fell short on signatures for an earlier step in the process, the Republican-controlled Ohio House said it had missed a legal deadline to appear on the ballot that year.

The marijuana coalition sued and eventually struck a legal settlement with state officials. Under the deal, the group agreed it would try again in 2023. State officials said they would accept the more than 140,000 voter signatures the group had gathered in its initial round of signature collection.

That’s a big start toward obtaining the necessary signatures, and Secretary State Frank LaRose has acknowledged he would accept those earlier signatures, as per the agreement.

Many are very cognizant of the potential outcome.

As Nestor explained, if the state law passes, it would put a strong emphasis on local decision-making. So cities and townships would have the ability to pass laws outlining things like where dispensaries may be located and where they may not.

That’s fine, but lawmakers will have to think very carefully about whether the rewards outweigh the risks. Senate Bill 26 would give drivers the opportunity to avoid an OVI charge by arguing they are sober, even if they test positive for marijuana. Traffic laws are just the start of the challenges in legalizing recreational marijuana.

Frankly, we are not supporters of legalized recreational pot, and we urge our lawmakers not to rush into any decision lightly.

Instead, they must stand strong in knowing that they have been elected to represent their constituents in Columbus by acting as they think is best — not based on threat of a ballot initiative.

It’s true that other states appear to have made it work. But other states are not Ohio. Lawmakers must leave no stone unturned in figuring out what is right, for us.

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