By Julie Carr Smyth
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio voters approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana on Tuesday, defying Republican legislative leaders who had failed to pass the proposed law.
Passage of Issue 2 makes Ohio the 24th state to allow adult cannabis use for non-medical purposes.
“Marijuana is no longer a controversial issue,” said Tom Haren, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “Ohioans demonstrated this by passing State Issue 2 in a landslide. Ohioans are being extremely clear on the future they want for our state: adult-use marijuana legal and regulated.”
The new law will allow adults 21 and over to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to grow plants at home. A 10 per cent tax will be imposed on purchases, to be spent on administrative costs, addiction treatment, municipalities with dispensaries and social equity and jobs programs supporting the industry itself.
The election’s outcome represents a blow to GOP lawmakers, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and business and manufacturing organizations concerned about its impact on workplace and traffic safety.
But as a citizen-initiated statute, the law is subject to change. Republicans who remain opposed to it in the Legislature are free to make tweaks to the law _ or even repeal it, though the political stakes are higher now that the voters have approved it.
Among concerns raised by opponents that lawmakers may revisit is the measure’s tax structure, which earmarks none of the earnings for Ohio counties that administer social services programs directed at drug use, addiction and other issues that could rise due to Issue 2’s passage.
“This fight is not over,” Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action President Kevin Sabet said in a statement. He called on state lawmakers to eliminate provisions of Issue 2 that allow for commercial sales, advertising and production, at a minimum.
For the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, voter approval marked the culmination of the proposal’s yearslong fight to become law.
GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose first submitted petitions to the Ohio General Assembly on behalf of the coalition in January 2022, triggering a four-month countdown for lawmakers to act. Republican legislative leaders didn’t, and lawmakers asserted the group’s petitions arrived too late for 2022 ballots.
A lawsuit and settlement ensued, under which the group agreed to wait until this year.