Ohio has had one of the more peculiar roads to adult use legalization. In 2015, it was poised to be among the first handful of states to legalize cannabis. On Tuesday, eight years later, it became the 24th state to do so.
Much has unfolded in between, and the road to legal cannabis sales is likely to be rocky.
This election day, in addition to passing Issue 2, the adult use legalization measure, voters also passed the only other issue on the state ballot, Issue 1, which protects reproductive rights.
Issue 2 creates a Division of Cannabis Control to oversee regulated sales to adults (21 and older), and would allow adults to grow up to six plants at home (12 plants per household). A 10% tax on cannabis sales would go toward a “cannabis social equity and jobs program.”
However, Issue 2 is not a constitutional amendment, meaning that the state legislature will have a lot of power to revise, overhaul, or even – though it’s not expected – repeal the will of the voters.
The campaign behind Issue 2 far outraised its opponents. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol received just under $6 million, compared with less than half a million for Protect Ohio Workers and Families.
While the push for Issue 2 began in 2021, Ohio’s path to legalization started in 2015. And it did so on shaky ground.
Responsible Ohio, the campaign behind the 2015 measure, crafted their legalization plan in such a way that the campaign’s financial backers would be guaranteed cannabis business licenses. This, and other tactics from Responsible Ohio, such as creating a mascot that looked like a cannabis bud named Buddie, generated significant pushback, including from individuals and groups that otherwise supported legalization. Voters rejected the measure, known as Issue 3, with 64% voting no. (For more backstory of the 2015 campaign, read this story in The Guardian written by one of Cannabis Wire’s co-founders.)
A new campaign formed in 2019, but it fell apart before reaching the ballot, as Cannabis Wire reported at the time, in part bogged down by divisions that lingered from 2015. Finally, in 2021, two lawmakers spearheaded a bill in the legislature, as Cannabis Wire reported, though that effort ultimately stalled.
What happens next is in the hands of a Republican-controlled legislature. Already, the Senate adopted a resolution in October in opposition to Issue 2. Gov. Mike DeWine opposes legalization, too. How much this political climate will shape the implementation of Issue 2 remains to be seen. However, Rep. Josh Williams, a Republican, said last month that, while he expects lawmakers to respect the will of the voters, changes are likely.
“I believe it does need to be modified substantially. So, I know discussions have already started inside of the House of Representatives,” Williams said, as Cannabis Wire reported.