In 2015, Ohio voters had the opportunity to pass a ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana for adult use – before the state had even legalized medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the nature of the initiative aimed to create a monopoly on the cannabis industry by limiting grow sites to 10 and giving those sites away to campaign investors – and that was enough to lose support of many pro-legalization groups and ultimately lead to its defeat.
Then, in 2016 lawmakers took it upon themselves to legalize medical marijuana, and the law went into effect immediately. However, it has taken some time for them to get their program up and running – with many delays along the way.
Now, an activist group called Ohio Families for Change is working toward bringing recreational cannabis back to the voters in the state through a new ballot initiative. Unlike the last one, it would not restrict the number of growers, but instead allow the state legislature to regulate the commercial recreational cannabis industry. It would also allow people to grow cannabis at home, with no limit on how much can be grown or bought for personal use.
“This is unfortunate, because people are being arrested daily for activity that simply shouldn’t be criminal, only to support a black-market system,” Ohio Families for Change spokesman Jonathan Varner said in an email. “We’re confident that when voters have the opportunity to vote on this issue, they will overwhelmingly approve it.”
Last week, the proposed ballot initiative, titled “Marijuana Rights and Regulations”, was certified by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Now it faces review by the Ohio Ballot Board, a bipartisan group of lawmakers headed by Secretary of State Jon Husted, to determine if the measure is one ballot issue or multiple. It is expected to be approved, and from there the group must prove support for the initiative by collecting 305,591 signatures from registered voters in order for the initiative to be put on the ballot.
“It gives the small entrepreneur an equal footing with the cannabis conglomerates, while decriminalizing personal adult use of marijuana,” Varner said. “It goes beyond existing Ohio law to protect consumers from dangerous chemicals and pesticides that can be found in cannabis, and has stringent measures to keep marijuana away from persons under 21 years of age.”
As it stands now, the group will have until July 4th to send in the needed signatures if they want to get on the November 2018 ballot. However, spokesman Varner has stated that they don’t expect to meet that deadline, and instead are focusing their efforts on the 2019 election. This would give the group more than enough time to come up with the minimum needed signatures – and plenty additional to ensure that any that are not validated won’t cost them their chances at reaching the ballot.