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420 with CNW — Ohio Marijuana Sector in Limbo as Lawmakers Close for the Year

Cannabis News Wire, Media Partners

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Last week marked the conclusion of the Ohio Senate and House’s final scheduled sessions for the year, yet the anticipated progress on cannabis legislation remained elusive. Despite both chambers convening on Wednesday, no cannabis-related bills were discussed, prompting questions about the proximity of a consensus between the Senate and House on the matter.

Senate president Matt Huffman expressed uncertainty about the progress, noting that it was “challenging to determine. The provisions we endorsed, developed in collaboration with the governor and presented to the House have not received significant feedback.”

In a bipartisan move, the Senate passed HB 86, advocating for a 15% increase in cannabis tax, capping home cultivation at six plants, restructuring revenue distribution and integrating automatic expungement. Governor Mike DeWine urged swift legislative action, emphasizing the urgency for signing the measure into law. However, the House exhibited a less urgent approach, leaving DeWine disappointed.

Although cannabis is legal in Ohio, the absence of legal avenues for recreational purchases remains a challenge. The existing law empowers the state’s commerce department to formulate regulations and issue licenses, a process delayed until at least nine months after Nov. 7, 2023. Consequently, legal cannabis sales in Ohio might not materialize until well into the following year.

HB 86 presents an opportunity to expedite this timeline, allowing Ohioans to access recreational cannabis at dispensaries promptly upon the bill’s enactment. Senate Minority leader Nickie J. Antonio noted the importance of making safe, legal products available as soon as possible.

Huffman expressed concerns that the cannabis legislation’s progress might stagnate, particularly with the looming March 19, 2024, primaries. Fearing a potential delay into April and beyond, Huffman stressed the need for elements in the bill that were agreeable to the House.

Both Huffman and Antonio advocated for a dialogue between the Senate and House to discuss various aspects of the legislation. Meanwhile, House speaker Jason Stephens asserted that cannabis discussions would persist, noting the absence of significant hurdles in reaching a consensus within the chamber.

Three critical components of the proposed cannabis law include determining permissible usage locations, issuing licenses and outlining revenue utilization. State Representative Jamie Callender introduced HB 354, clarifying certain aspects of Issue 2. The bill maintains the existing home cultivation limits and specifies that cultivation must occur at a residential address.

As legislative discussions continue, with HB 354 undergoing three hearings in the House Finance Committee, the Senate and the House are scheduled to reconvene next month. Established cannabis companies such as Green Thumb Industries Inc. (CSE: GTII) (OTCQX: GTBIF) are likely to follow how matters evolve in this latest state to legalize recreational marijuana.

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