Ohioans are currently voting to decide the fate of a proposed initiative aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana. Early voting commenced on Oct. 11, 2023, with the statewide election scheduled for Nov. 7.
The initiative, which bears the designation Issue 2 on the ballots, has been championed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The campaigners spent more than a year pushing for the initiative to be included on the ballot since the Republican-controlled legislature would not expand on the present medicinal marijuana policy.
Should the initiative gain approval, Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize recreational cannabis. This would supersede the existing medical cannabis program, which has steadily expanded since its inception in 2016.
The proposal encompasses provisions permitting adults 21 years of age and older to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 15g of concentrate. Additionally, they would be allowed to cultivate a maximum of six plants, with a cap of 12 for households with multiple adult occupants.
The commercial production and distribution of marijuana products would be subject to regulation by a newly established state agency: the Division of Marijuana Control. The commission will be responsible for licensing, enforcing regulations, conducting investigations, and levying penalties on testing laboratories, operators, and other players in the recreational cannabis sector.
Recreational cannabis sales would be subject to a 10% tax, with the generated revenue allocated toward a cannabis social-equity and employment fund, the oversight of the program, support for communities hosting marijuana facilities and addiction services.
A poll conducted in July by the USA Today Network revealed that a majority of Ohio voters, approximately 58.6%, are in favor of legalization. This sentiment is more pronounced among younger respondents, with 76% of those aged 18 to 34 showing support, in contrast to 43% of individuals aged 65 and above. Additionally, another survey by Fallon Research discovered that 59% of voters were in favor of the ballot initiative, while 32% stated they would vote against it.
The law would take effect 30 days after the voting results are officially certified. However, the longevity of legalization is not assured since this is a citizen-initiated statute and not a constitutional amendment. State legislators can still repeal or amend the program following the election.
Currently, several groups, including law-enforcement agencies and the Ohio Children’s Hospital Associations, are against the initiative. Republican legislators are also against it and may become more assertive in contravening the public’s will, particularly with a favorable presidential election year in 2024.
If the measure to legalize recreational cannabis succeeds and is implemented, Ohio could see the mushrooming of not just marijuana companies but also other verticals connected to the industry in the same way that entities such as Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. (NYSE: IIPR) have carved out a niche serving marijuana companies in other state markets.
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