Ohio Representatives Introduce New Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Bill

Ohio State Reps. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, and Jamie Callender, R-Concord, announced May 22 that they have introduced a new adult-use cannabis legalization bill as advocates collect signatures to put a legalization measure on the state’s November ballot.

House Bill 168 builds on legislation considered during last year’s legislative session, which echoed legalization efforts from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is attempting to get an adult-use legalization measure before voters this year.

H.B. 168 would levy a 10% sales tax on adult-use cannabis products, and the tax revenue generated would support primary and secondary education, communities that host dispensaries, efforts to quash drug addiction and illegal drug trafficking, and Ohio’s General Revenue Fund.

“It’s time for Ohio to act on this before we fall too much further behind our neighbors,” Weinstein said in a public statement. “Adult use is good for our economy, good for our justice system, and the right thing to do. Ohioans are ready to legalize cannabis, and I am proud to offer this bipartisan bill to get it done.”

The legislation would rename the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program as the Division of Marijuana Control and expand its authority to also regulate adult-use cannabis cultivation, processing and sales.

“Through the expansion of Ohio’s successful medical marijuana program to all Ohioans, we will not only be building upon best practices from around the country but utilizing the lessons learned here in Ohio,” Callender said in a public statement. “With the nation increasingly heading towards the descheduling of cannabis products at the federal level, Ohio has an opportunity to get ahead of the curve in developing its cannabis industry.”

H.B. 168 is awaiting a committee assignment and sponsor testimony.

Meanwhile, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol continues to gather signatures for its adult-use cannabis legalization initiative, which would legalize and regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older. The measure would also legalize the home cultivation of up to six plants per person and 12 plants per residence. The initiative would also levy a 10% sales tax on adult-use cannabis products.

RELATED: Is Ohio’s Medical Market Ready for the Flip to Adult-Use Cannabis Sales?

The coalition must collect roughly 124,000 signatures from registered voters from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties by July 5 to get the measure before voters on the November ballot, according to the Ohio Capital Journal.

“It’s going to be on the ballot and it’s going to pass,” Tom Haren, a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told the news outlet earlier this month. “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.”

While legalization efforts stumbled in the November 2022 election with voters approving only two out of five total state legalization measures—and while Oklahoma voters said no to adult-use legalization in a special election in early March—a handful of states have successfully legalized medical and adult-use cannabis since then.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed a medical cannabis legalization bill in March, Delaware Gov. John Carney allowed a pair of adult-use legalization bills to become law in April, and Minnesota will be the 23rd state to legalize adult-use cannabis when Gov. Tim Walz signs a bill that landed on his desk last week.

Back in Ohio, Cannabis Business Times previously reported that Gov. Mike DeWine said during a 2018 debate with his opponent in that year’s gubernatorial race that he is opposed to adult-use legalization and would veto it if it came across his desk. After President Joe Biden announced his plan to pardon federal offenses for simple cannabis possession and urged governors to pardon those with state-level offenses for simple possession, a spokesperson for DeWine told Cleveland.com that the governor “is unlikely to respond to Biden’s call to follow suit on the state level.”

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