Ohio Inches Towards Adult-Use Legalization, Two Main Paths Considered

Recent bills and ballot initiatives suggest that adult-use cannabis may be coming to Ohio in the near future.  However, with the State currently considering two separate paths towards legalization, the key question now seems just as much how as when.

The first path contemplates legalization through traditional legislative means, via a bill introduced by Democratic lawmakers in July.  The bill would permit cultivation and possession of cannabis, expunge cannabis convictions, and institute a tax to help fund education, infrastructure maintenance, and fund cannabis research.  The bill would also allow businesses under Ohio’s existing Medical Marijuana Control Program to obtain licenses for recreational programs.

The second avenue is through what Ohio refers to as an “initiated statute,” which permits citizens to submit proposed laws for a statewide vote.  The initiated statute, backed by advocacy group Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (“Coalition”) was approved by the Ohio Ballot Board in August.  Should the Coalition gather the roughly 133,000 signatures needed, the proposal would be sent to the Ohio General Assembly for a vote.  The Assembly would then have four months to act on the proposed law, which would end cannabis prohibition, allow expansion of an adult-use market, create a new Division of Cannabis Control regulatory authority under the Ohio Department of Commerce, and establish a social equity fund.

Regardless of the path chosen, adult-use cannabis is likely to have significant ramifications for the Buckeye State’s economy such as increased tax revenue and new social equity initiatives.  Often seen as a bellwether state, Ohio’s legalization of adult-use cannabis may also have implications for other areas of the country, or even at the Federal level, as legalization continues to spread throughout the nation.