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420 with CNW — Cultivation, Possession of Cannabis is Now Legal, But Ohioans Have Nowhere to Purchase It

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Recreational marijuana sales in Ohio remain in a state of uncertainty following a recent development that permits adults to cultivate and possess marijuana at home but restricts them from legally purchasing it.

This week, Republican Governor Mike DeWine asked lawmakers to establish guidelines for Issue 2, the citizen initiative approved by voters in November, in an attempt to beat the law’s effective date. The state’s House declined to take up the matter despite the Senate’s successful last-minute agreement shortly before the statute went into effect.

Representative Jamie Callender clarified that there is no specific deadline for putting in place a legal sales framework. He emphasized the importance of a thoughtful approach, ensuring sufficient time for a comprehensive examination and resolution of aspects not taking immediate effect.

Representative Bill Seitz defended the adjournment of the House without debating the 160 pages of related legislation, arguing that it was absurd to pass such a significant proposal without adequate review; he emphasized the need for time to work through the difficulties of establishing marijuana sales, taxes and regulatory frameworks.

DeWine expressed concerns about potential adverse scenarios, such as the flourishing of illicit market sales or increased accessibility to cannabis products contaminated with substances such as fentanyl or pesticides.

Last year, legislators had a four-month window in which to act on Issue 2, a citizen-initiated statute, before it could go to the ballot. However, the Republican-controlled legislature opted for inaction, resulting in the November 7 ballot, which ended in a 57% vote in favor of the initiative.

The approved measure permits adults 21 years of age and older to cultivate up to 12 plants per household or 6 plants per individual, as well as to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. It called for the creation of a legal cannabis purchasing system by the state within nine months, with a 10% tax. Sales proceeds would go toward paying for social-justice initiatives, addiction-treatment centers, dispensary-owning towns, administrative expenses and employment initiatives that boost the marijuana sector.

With the law about to take effect, Senate GOP leaders proposed a significant alteration to the voter-approved provisions, causing dissatisfaction among supporters and raising concerns in the House. The proposed amendments would have eliminated tax money for social-equality programs, reduced the amount of marijuana that may be possessed at one ounce, increased taxes on sales to fifteen percent, prohibited home cultivation, and transferred funds to the state government as a whole.

A deal that was worked out with DeWine and approved by the Senate in a 28-to-2 vote keeps the 15% tax on sales, lowers the maximum THC content permitted in marijuana extracts, reinstates the 2.5-ounce possession limit and permits up to 35% THC in plants. It also takes away the majority of state revenue control. The legislation gained Democratic support by including provisions to expunge criminal records for possession of up to two and a half ounces, requiring kid-safe packaging and prohibiting ads targeting minors — an initiative backed by the governor.

Senate President Matt Huffman defended the compromise as respecting voters’ decisions while addressing crucial concerns. He acknowledged his opposition to cannabis legalization but emphasized the need to comply with the law to prevent the emergence of an illegal market.

Louis Tobin, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association executive director, states that while there is still confusion surrounding commercial cannabis sales, several provisions of the new Ohio law are instantly enforceable. He highlighted that while it might be challenging to establish probable cause for carrying less than two and a half ounces of marijuana, some activities, such as smoking in cars, carrying more than is allowed, holding private sales and operating a vehicle while intoxicated, remain prohibited.

The evolving recreational marijuana regulatory system in Ohio is likely to be of interest to multistate operators such as Cresco Labs Inc. (CSE: CL) (OTCQX: CRLBF) because it could potentially be a market they would consider expanding into.

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