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Petition Forces Ohio Lawmakers into Action on Cannabis Legalization

Ohio’s secretary of state announced last week that cannabis activists had collected enough signatures to force lawmakers to consider a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis. According to Frank LaRose’s office, more than 136,000 registered voters signed the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Nearly 4,000 signatures more were needed than to send the law reform proposal to the legislature.

Ohio lawmakers now have to approve the proposed legislation. They have four months to approve the state legislation or adopt an amended form. If the state Senate and House of Representatives fail to do so, the campaign would have the chance to collect another 132,887 signatures to place the measure on the ballot for this year’s general election.

“We are ready and eager to work with Ohio legislators over the next four months to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Ohio,” Campaign Spokesman Tom Haren said in a statement. “We are also fully prepared to collect additional signatures and take this issue directly to voters on November 8, 2022, if legislators fail to act.”

Signatures Validated by the Ohio Secretary of State

Campaign submitted more than 200,000 signatures to petitions during December. The petitions contained more signatures than needed to reach lawmakers. But after the secretary of state’s office announced earlier this month that only 119,985 of the signatures had been verified as registered voters, activists submitted nearly 30,000 additional signatures to state officials.

In a letter sent by LaRose’s office on Friday, the secretary of state wrote that with the additional submissions activists had collected a sufficient number of signatures in enough counties to send the petition to the legislature.

“The initial part-petitions contained 119,825 valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative of the total signatures submitted, signatures from 51 counties were submitted that met or exceeded 1.5 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in the respective counties at the last gubernatorial election,” Larose wrote in a letter posted online by Northeast Ohio Media Group.

“The additional part-petitions contained 16,904 valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative,” he continued. “I hereby certify that the part-petitions contained a total of 136,729 valid signatures submitted on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative petition.”

Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alchohol proposes that Ohioans aged 21 or older can legally own and buy up to 1.5 grams and 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. A maximum of six adult cannabis plants would be allowed at home.

Also, the measure will impose a 10% tax on all marijuana products. All revenue generated by marijuana taxes will go to the administration of the program as well as to local municipalities that have cannabis dispensaries. Additionally, taxes could be used for funding substance abuse programs as well as social equity and job programs.

In a GOP-led Legislature, Cannabis Legalization is a long shot

However, the legalization proposal is unlikely to gain approval from Ohio’s GOP-controlled state legislature. Even if the legislation were passed by lawmakers, the Republican governor would most likely veto it. Mike DeWine was one of the people who opposed legalizing recreational marijuana in Ohio.

“No, I think that’s a mistake,” DeWine said. “I think you change the culture and you send a signal to kids… If it’s legal, every kid, the message is it’s okay.”

However, the campaign hopes that legislators will approve the measure.

“We are expecting a vigorous debate but we expect this to pass because it is popular among Democrats, Independents and Republicans,” Haren told local media.

Two Republican legislators introduced legislation last month to allow recreational marijuana in Ohio. Separately, the legislature is considering a bill that would expand the state’s medical cannabis program.