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How might lawmakers modify newly passed recreational marijuana statute?

Ohio voters approved a citizen-initiated statute to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2023.
Ohio voters approved a citizen-initiated statute to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2023.

Ohio voters decided Tuesday to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana by a 14-point margin. But the General Assembly will have the last word on what becomes law regarding Issue 2 and cannabis use in the long-term.

On a basic level, Issue 2 legalizes and sets regulation guidelines for Ohioans to grow, cultivate, sell, buy, and consume marijuana—if they are 21 or older. It includes a provision that lets people grow plants at home, with a limit of six per person or 12 per household. And it outlines cannabis taxes: a 10% excise tax on sales, 5.75% state sales tax and 2.25% maximum in local taxes.

Leading into Election Day, Republican leaders largely said they wanted to wait and see what voters had to say before they would discuss their problems with the proposal. Now that the bulk of ballots have been tallied across the state, however, some lawmakers are beginning to talk about could-be tweaks.

John Fortney, the Ohio Senate majority spokesperson, called the statute—in its current state—a “cash grab.”

“The General Assembly may consider amending that statute to clarify some questionable language regarding limits for THC,” Fortney said.

THC content limits, under the current statute that Ohioans voted on Tuesday, sit at “no less than” 35% on plants and 90% on extracts. But lawmakers might set a ceiling limiting the potency of products, Fortney said.

“Also, tax rates are an issue,” he said.

As of now, 72% of tax revenue will be divided equally between a social equity and jobs program fund and a fund for communities with dispensaries. Another quarter will go to addiction treatment, and 3% to administrative costs, according to the statute.

The leader Fortney speaks for, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), has also said he's concerned about a provision that will allow for some of the 10% in marijuana tax revenue to go to programs offering financial assistance and help with license applications for cannabis businesses for people who’ve been convicted of marijuana-related laws.

The statute in its current form takes effect Dec. 7, although the Ohio Department of Commerce—which is set to oversee the state’s new recreational program—has nine months after that to begin issuing licenses to dispensaries.

Both legislative chambers are scheduled to hold at least one session prior to the provisions taking effect.
Copyright 2023 The Statehouse News Bureau.