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Ohio Activists Say They Will Have Enough Signatures for Cannabis Measure by End of November



Ohio is joining states like Florida and Oklahoma in their effort to legalize cannabis in the state, and according to activists, they will have enough signatures to force the legislature to consider cannabis legalization by the end of the month.

Reform activists began circulating petitions for a cannabis legalization measure in September after receiving permission to collect signatures and place the proposal before lawmakers. The petition is from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) and needs 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters during this first phase of the effort.

Panelists discussed the legalization proposal at an event hosted by Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center on Friday, focusing on the ballot proposal and an additional reform bill proposed by Representative Casey Weinstein over the summer.

The 180-page bill similarly would legalize possession of up to five ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older, also allowing adults in the state to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use and including provisions to expunge prior convictions for possession and cultivation activities that would be legal under the measure.

“It’s time to lead Ohio forward,” Weinstein said in a press release. “This is a big step for criminal justice reform, for our veterans, for economic opportunity, and for our individual liberties.”

Regarding the CTRMLA measure—which would legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older, up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates and allow individuals to grow up to six plants for personal use and 12 plants per household—spokesperson Tom Haren said the initial wave of signature gathering will wrap approximately by the end of November.

Following this phase, the legislature has four months to adopt the measure, reject it or adopt an amended version. Should lawmakers not pass the proposal, organizers must collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the proposal before Ohio voters on the November 2022 ballot.

Haren noted that the primary goal right now is to get lawmakers to adopt the reform, adding that they are “not really focusing at all about a ballot campaign.”

Activists are “laser-focused as a coalition on engagement with the legislature because we think, and are confident, that once our proposal was firmly within the General Assembly’s hands and it’s something that they have to deal with, that we can move the needle and maybe get some robust and vigorous debates within the legislature on the topic of marijuana reform,” Haren said.

There are several actions in the state encouraging cannabis reform, including one from October, sponsored by Republican Representatives Jamie Callender of Concord and Ron Ferguson of Wintersville that would build on the state’s existing medical cannabis program, also allowing adults 21 and over to possess cannabis and provide regulations for the licensing of cannabis growers, distributors and retailers. The bill would also provide a way for Ohioans convicted of cannabis crimes—which the bill would make legal—to have their records sealed or expunged.

“As a society, we’ve reached a point where it’s not the taboo thing it used to be,” Callender said, adding at a press conference following the announcement that adults “should be able to make decisions for themselves, and that’s what the bill does.”

Weinstein added that we have collectively reached a tipping point, where the majority of Americans live in decriminalized or fully legalized states, and that he would love to get the work done through legislation.

“It doesn’t mean that I don’t in any way support the ballot initiative,” Weinstein said. “I think an initiated statute is a great way to go because voters want this and, a lot of times, the voters want things and the legislature is holding them back and this is a situation where we’re behind where Ohioans are.”

And it appears as though Ohioans are on the same page; during this month’s election, voters in seven cities approved ballot measures to decriminalize cannabis possession, following 22 jurisdictions across the state that had already adopted local statutes to do the same.