Ohio voters gave their approval last week to the legalization of recreational marijuana cultivation and sales, opening the doors to a potentially lucrative market in the Midwest. This milestone was achieved with around 53% of the votes counted, where supporters of Issue 2 were leading with 55.7% in favor against 44.3% opposed.
This makes Ohio the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana following a prolonged and contentious process. It is expected that the new recreational cannabis market could generate revenues close to $2 billion within the first year of operation, ultimately increasing to $4 billion by the fourth year, according to MJBizDaily.
However, it remains to be seen how things turn out, as the state’s GOP-dominated General Assembly has expressed intentions to make key adjustments or even repeal voter-approved causes. Despite potential legislative challenges, polls indicated strong support for recreational cannabis legalization and sales leading up to the election.
The passing of this legislation is expected to open up new opportunities for vertically integrated multistate operators such as Cresco Labs Inc. (CSE: CL) (OTCQX: CRLBF) and Acreage Holdings. The substantial population of Ohio, with more than 11 million residents, and its proximity to neighboring states with limited marijuana programs make it a promising market.
Acreage CEO Dennis Curran expressed his excitement about the vote, seeing it as a turning point for both Ohio and the cannabis industry as a whole, marking increased acceptance of cannabis use and a reduction in the stigma surrounding the plant. Issue 2 introduces several key provisions, including allowing level 1 and 2 cannabis license holders to add three more stores and expand manufacturing and cultivation operations. Recreational cannabis sales will be subject to a 10% excise tax in addition to an existing 5.75% sales tax.
Although Ohio has yet to develop a social-equity program, Issue 2 dedicates a portion of marijuana tax revenue to create opportunities for disadvantaged applicants. The measure also establishes a state agency to formulate and oversee rules and regulations for recreational marijuana, which must be developed within nine months.
While Issue 2 had its proponents, it also faced opposition from various Ohio organizations, including the Manufacturers’ Association of Ohio, the Business Roundtable of Ohio and the Chamber of Commerce, which expressed concerns about workplace safety and the difficulty in finding workers who can pass drug tests. Governor Mike DeWine was also opposed to the legislation.
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