On November 7, 2023, voters in Ohio approved the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative, listed on the ballot as Issue 2. With almost 57 percent of voters in favor, Ohio thus becomes the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Now, let’s take a look at what happens next and what exactly the legalization of marijuana in Ohio will look like?

What exactly is being legalized in Ohio?

Once enacted, the rules set out under Issue 2 mean that anyone 21 and over can legally purchase, possess, and consume marijuana. In Ohio, marijuana has been legal for medicinal purposes since 2016.

Effective on December 7, however, a person may publicly possess up to 2.5 ounces, and home growing of up to six plants per person or 12 plants per residence will now be permitted. Moreover, commercial licenses are expected to be granted by state regulators within a timeframe of nine months.

That is, of course, if Ohio legislators, many of whom opposed the initiative, do not override some aspects of the new rules. Indeed, Ohio’s legislature will have an opportunity to revise Issue 2 before it becomes effective.

How will marijuana be regulated in Ohio?

Provided legislators do not intervene, the implementation of Issue 2 will create a Cannabis Control Division under the Commerce Department. This division will be responsible for licensing and overseeing the activities of growers, manufacturers, testing laboratories, distributors, and retailers in the cannabis industry. 

A 10 percent tax will be imposed on sales, along with the usual state and local sales taxes, which are typically in the region of 7 percent. While local governments cannot impose extra taxes on marijuana, they have the option to receive a portion of the revenue if they permit the operation of cannabis shops within their jurisdiction.

The anticipated system of taxation will be similar to that in nearby Michigan, which legalized marijuana through a vote in 2018. In Michigan, marijuana is subject to a 10 percent retail tax with an additional 6 percent standard sales tax.

Who endorsed the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative?

Various entities endorsed the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative, including the Marijuana Policy Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, and the Green Party of Ohio, as well as Senator Sherrod Brown (D), Representative David Joyce (R), the Mayor of Cleveland, Justin Bibb, and several State House members, both Democrats and Republicans.

The rationale for Issue 2 was clear-cut: that marijuana should be regulated akin to alcohol. This approach would displace the illicit market with a controlled industry, contribute to tax revenues, and put an end to disproportionately severe penalties for minor marijuana offenses.

Who opposed legalization of Marijuana in Ohio?

Those against the initiative comprised a significant group of Republican lawmakers, various law enforcement organizations, Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, and indeed the Ohio Republican Party.

Governor DeWine expressed concerns about “increased use by underage kids.” However, such fears have simply not materialized in other states where recreational marijuana has been legal for years.

Where can marijuana be consumed in Ohio?

The legalization of marijuana in Ohio raises the question of where exactly it can be consumed within the state. 

The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative does still designate marijuana use in “public areas” as a minor misdemeanor, carrying a $150 fine. Notably, it explicitly disallows the consumption of marijuana on “federal, state, or locally owned land.”

Landlords cannot discriminate against tenants primarily based on their cannabis consumption, though they do retain the right to prohibit smoking marijuana as a lease condition. 

Finally, the proposal asserts that it does not restrict any public space from willingly facilitating an individual’s consumption, implying the possibility of business premises where consumption of marijuana is permitted.

In conclusion

Voters across Ohio have observed neighboring states adopting similar marijuana legalization laws and understand the benefits of a regulated, legal market over the unsuccessful prohibitionist approach. Now, state legislators must respect the electorate’s decision and implement this measure without attempting to dilute it, enabling a more practical and sensible approach to drug policy.

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