Ohio Lawmakers Set to Introduce Bill to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

Ohio lawmakers are set to consider a bill that would legalize adult, or recreational, cannabis use in the Buckeye state.

State Representative Casey Weinstein (D) and co-sponsor Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D) announced their intention to introduce the bill late last week. The bill would mark the first time a proposal to allow adult-use cannabis has been introduced in the Ohio legislature. While the bill’s text has not yet been released, Representatives Weinstein and Upchurch recently co-sponsored a memo attempting to shore up support in advance of the bill’s formal introduction.

The proposed bill would legalize possession of up to five ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older, as well as allow the cultivation of up to 12 cannabis plants for personal use. The law would also retroactively expunge cannabis convictions for cultivation and possession activities now being made legal under the bill.

The bill seeks to establish a regulatory compliance regime enabling the Department of Commerce to oversee adult-use cannabis distribution and sales. The Department of Commerce would also be empowered to establish a licensing scheme for cannabis retailers, processors, and cannabis compliance facilities.

In support of their proposal, representatives Weinstein and Upchurch cite the potential economic benefits that could be gained from legalizing adult-use cannabis. The bill would impose a 10% excise tax on cannabis sales, with revenue first going toward the cost of implementing a legalized adult-use cannabis regime. Additional funds are to be directed toward municipalities and counties with at least one cannabis shop, K-12 education, and infrastructure.

The proposed regulatory scheme would exist separate from Ohio’s current Medical Marijuana Control Program and would not alter any of the current laws governing the cultivation, processing, testing, and sale of medical cannabis.

Despite bipartisan public and legislatorial support, Governor Mike DeWine has voiced his opposition over broadly legalizing cannabis use without regard to individual circumstances, noting that “[i]t would be a mistake for Ohio, by legislation, to say that marijuana for adults is just ok[.]”

Representatives Weinstein and Upchurch’s bill, if enacted, would signal a major shift in cannabis policy for Ohio which is largely considered a bellwether state with regard to public policy. The bill comes at an inflection point for cannabis laws nationwide, as Senate Democrats prepare to introduce a similar proposal that would decriminalize cannabis use at the federal level.