The future of recreational marijuana legalization in Ohio is in the balance Tuesday.
Issue 2 on the statewide ballot would allow adults 21 and over to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to grow plants at home. A 10% tax would be imposed on purchases, with proceeds going to administrative costs, addiction treatment, municipalities with dispensaries, and social equity and jobs programs.
Ohio would become the 24th state to allow adult use cannabis for fun if the measure passes.
The conclusion of the vote follows a nearly two-year push by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which surmounted administrative, legal and legislative hurdles to put the citizen-initiated statute before voters.
In accordance with Ohio law, the proposal went first to the Republican-dominated Legislature, which was given four months to pass it. With many majority lawmakers opposed, they refused.
GOP Senate President Matt Huffman stood firm against the proposal and has suggested lawmakers may try to rewrite — or even repeal — it, if it passes.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine also opposed it, citing traffic safety concerns, among other things. Some of the state’s most influential business and manufacturing organizations also worked against the measure, citing concerns that workplace safety would deteriorate, absenteeism would rise and workers’ compensation rates would be driven up.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol argues that it’s time Ohio legalizes and regulates cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sales of marijuana and marijuana products for adults 21 and older. Proponents say the measure will return tax revenue for pot purchases now going to neighboring states where it’s legal, and help thwart the black market.
They have touted their proposal as “fixing a broken system,” while assuring localities where dispensaries are situated maintain some control over the system and reap a portion of the proceeds.
Opponents say the taxes collected will benefit the marijuana industry more than Ohio’s budget.