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Deadline nears for lawmakers to act on marijuana legalization to beat tougher ballot initiative standards

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Jo Ingles
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Pot cookies

The clock is ticking for state lawmakers to pass an initiated statute that would allow marijuana use and sales for anyone over 21 in Ohio. If they don't act in a little less than four months the group that presented the legislature with the initiated statute intends to proceed with efforts to put the issue before voters in November.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol submitted the initiated statute to the new Ohio General Assembly on Jan. 3. The group's Tom Haren said they are prepared to take the issue to voters in November if Ohio lawmakers don’t pass their proposal by the beginning of May.

Haren said the group could do that by collecting about 150,000 more petition signatures.

Haren said he hasn't had conversations with any lawmakers in this current General Assembly about the proposal.

Many legislators are already on the record as being staunchly against the idea of allowing marijuana sales and use in Ohio outside of the state's existing medical marijuana program.

There was an effort in the last General Assembly to expand that program. But Haren said a change in that program simply won’t satisfy his coalition if lawmakers just tweak the existing medical marijuana program to relax usage.

“The medical program certainly needs some reforms but we are committed to putting in place a complete adult use program to complement the existing medical marijuana program," Haren said.

Haren's group reached an agreement with Republican lawmakers last May that kept the issue off the November 2022 ballot and allowed it to go forward this year using petition signatures that had already been collected.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is expected to be able to draw cash from national sources to help wage a ballot campaign.

Twenty-one states have legalized marijuana to allow sales and usage. Neighboring Michigan is among them. Marijuana sales there in the fiscal year 2021 totaled more than $1.1 billion in revenue, with the state raking in more than $111 million from the 10% sales tax.

There is no guarantee of how much legal marijuana sales in Ohio would generate but the proposal Haren has presented requires that sales be allowed in at least half of the state's 88 counties.