Cannabis advocates in Ohio thought they were in the clear last month for getting retail sales in front of the state legislature and perhaps on the 2022 ballot. State law requires at least 132,887 signatures for a petition to go before voters at the polls, and Ohio’s Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 206,943 signatures on December 20.
But election officials on Monday claimed more than 74,000 of the signatures were invalid, a common result for petitions that stem from a variety of reasons including unregistered and repeat signees.
In a letter on Monday, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said only 119,825 of the signatures counted, meaning the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol now has until Jan. 14 to collect 13,062 additional endorsements before a final deadline. Otherwise, the petition won’t go before the legislature or on the ballot, and advocates will likely have to start over for the next election cycle.
The measure proposes legalizing possession of up to 2.5 ounces of flower and up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates for adults 21 and over. It would also let adults grow up to six plants per person for use at home, with a maximum 12 plants per household. Customers would be charged a 10 percent excise tax on retail dispensary purchases, a tax that medical buyers won’t have to pay.
Coalition spokesman Tom Haren told Cleveland.com that his group is confident it will be able to collect the needed signatures before next week’s deadline.
“We’ve got a veritable army of folks who will be out gathering signatures,” Haren said. “We view this as a blip in the process.”
The Ohio Senate last month passed a bill to expand the current medical-only cannabis industry to expand cultivation rights, streamline regulations and incorporate a greater number of patient illnesses that allow more people to qualify for a card.
Ohio is the largest state with a real chance of legalizing adult-use this year, but a complicated “initiated statute” process along with the fact that Republicans control both the legislative and executive branches of the state’s government means retail cannabis will certainly face its fair share of challenges on the road to legalization.