will ohio legalize weed for recreational use

Ohio’s recreational marijuana campaign still working despite delays and complications

The campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio is still working through the process to put the issue on the ballot in November, despite delays and complications created by the coronavirus outbreak.

The group named Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol planned to start gathering signatures in the late winter and early spring to allow Ohio voters to legalize recreational marijuana through a Constitutional Amendment in November 2020.

See News 5’s coverage of that effort here.

Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol General Counsel Tom Haren tells News 5 that the campaign is still working on reworking the petition language to address the Attorney General’s concerns and that the ballot effort has not been called off.

The ballot measure proposes that adults, 21 years and older, be allowed to grow up to six plants and have up to one ounce of marijuana. It would also create a program, under the Ohio Department of Commerce, where cultivation, processing, and testing facilities, along with retail stores, would be regulated by the state.

The campaign already has a plan for sales tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales:

  • 50% would go to the State Local Government Fund, Haren says, potentially offsetting cuts under Governor Kasich.
  • 25% would go to a special fund for the Commission on Expungement, Criminal Justice, Community Investment, and Cannabis Industry Equity and Diversity
  • 10% must be returned to municipal corporations where retail sales occurred in proportional amounts based upon sales taxes remitted

The campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio is still working through the process to put the issue on the ballot in November, despite delays and complications created by the coronavirus outbreak.

Opinion: Time to get real about legalizing recreational pot

(Photo: Getty Images)

As a Gen Xer, these are probably the most volatile times my generation has seen. The violence of the 1960s civil rights era remains the stuff of history textbooks and not memory. Watching the whole world protest George Floyd’s death is really something to see, and a call for meaningful reforms. Compound that unrest with the chaos of COVID-19 and the destruction of our economy, and it feels like the country is a powder keg ready to blow.

If only there was a simple action legislators could take that could kill two birds with one stone! What if there was something supported by the majority of voters – both Republicans and Democrats – that could actually alleviate the tensions around both of these hotspots?

It’s time to get real about legalizing recreational marijuana.

I know this isn’t a panacea. Legalizing marijuana does not solve police brutality, and it doesn’t bring us closer to a vaccine for COVID-19. But there are concrete improvements this simple step could do in the midst of these trying times.

Krissy Calkins smokes a marijuana joint at a “Wake and Bake” legalized marijuana event in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Canada became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace as sales began early Wednesday in Newfoundland. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP) ORG XMIT: CKL111 (Photo: Christopher Katsarov, The Canadian Press via AP)

Consider Illinois and its move to recreational marijuana at the beginning of January. Prior to that, like Ohio, Illinois had a medical marijuana program – which means the state already had an infrastructure in place. By the end of January, Illinois collected more than $10 million in additional tax revenue from marijuana sales.

The currently cratered economy is only the beginning of our struggles.

I remember The Great Recession from 2008. Once the economy tanked, state and local governments all across Ohio saw their tax funding dry up. A year or two later, the state saw teachers losing their jobs. Local governments were forced to find deep budget reductions, decimating funds for things like social services.

Think of everything we rely on that builds from Ohio’s local and state taxes: police, fire, trash collection, road repair, health and human services, and more. With Ohio’s economy shut down for months, and with an uncertain future regarding consumer confidence, there is no telling when a fully functioning economy will start to replenish our lost tax funding – especially if schools are not operating at full capacity in the fall, causing a child care crisis that will further complicate a return to work and a normal economy.

Legalizing recreational marijuana can help with that.

It can also help rebuild communities of color that have been unfairly targeted for draconian drug enforcement. Despite the fact that black people and white people use marijuana at the same rate, black people are four times more likely to be arrested. More arrests mean more conflict points between police and the black community – and that just increases the likelihood we have another tragedy stoking emotions already on high alert.

A Cresco Labs employee cares for marijuana plants in the newly opened Cresco Labs medical marijuana plant in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. (Photo: Albert Cesare / The Enquirer)

Ohio’s medical marijuana program has already introduced a system of growers, distributors and dispensaries all across the state. We have three here in the Cincinnati area: Verilife, Verdant Creations, and Have a Heart Cincy. The transition would be relatively simple, especially now that we can follow the recent roadmap provided by Illinois.

So what’s holding us back? The answer is political.

Conservative lawmakers may fear repercussions from the fundamentalists in their voting base. But even among conservatives, generally, marijuana legalization is increasingly popular. What better way to promote less government intrusion and free markets than to allow marijuana capitalism to set up shop in Ohio?

Recreational marijuana in Ohio means more jobs – from growing facilities to transportation to the dispensaries themselves. That sounds like a great idea with unemployment at a record high and an unknown future for so many small businesses hit by COVID-19 closures.

But more importantly, recreational marijuana means more taxes to help fund education, social services and even community and business development in communities of color. In unprecedented times as these, how can we turn away from a simple solution such as legalization? As Ohio received accolades for its swift response to the threat of the virus, we should move swiftly to mediate the economic impact of those closures.

Legalizing recreational marijuana is a solution that already has the support of most Ohioans.

Justin Jeffre lives in Clifton Heights and was a member of the vocal group 98 Degrees.

Justin Jeffre (Photo: Christopher DeVargas)

Legalizing recreational marijuana could help Ohio's economic recovery from COVID-19 and provide valuable tax dollars to improve social services, schools. ]]>