If Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has the chance to shut the door on recreational cannabis this year, he’ll gladly do so. But the final decision might not be up to him.
The 75-year-old Republican, in his first term after being elected in 2019, said in an interview with the Sandusky Register that legalizing adult-use marijuana would add to DUI problems caused by alcohol and other drugs – both legal and illegal – in the state.
“I think it’s ridiculous to add an additional problem,” he told the paper’s editorial board.
Rec has been legalized in 18 states, including in neighboring Michigan. An additional five states – Kansas, Maryland, Missouri and Arkansas and Oklahoma – have a realistic chance of adding to that number this year.
Despite DeWine’s opposition, Ohio could still also become an adult-use state by year’s end. A legalization group, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, this week submitted a petition signed by over 133,000 registered voters for a legalization process that could go in one of two directions.
The coalition wants the Ohio General Assembly to consider its legalization proposal. But if lawmakers reject it, the group can submit a second petition to put its plan on the November election ballot, where voters would have the chance to approve it.
State officials ruled earlier this month that the coalition hadn’t collected enough valid signatures on its first try. The group responded by submitting an additional 30,000 signatures, needing just 13,062 to be validated for its proposal to move forward.
Ohio legislators have also put forth a pair of cannabis bills, but DeWine has said only that’d he’d be willing to consider expanding the state’s medical marijuana program. According to Ohio law, DeWine would have three options if the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed a rec bill: he could sign it into law, let it become law without his signature or veto it. The latter two options are the most likely outcomes if DeWine holds true to his word.
Spokesman Tom Haren of Ohio’s Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has called cannabis a safer alternative to alcohol and other drugs. Haren said the group is optimistic of rec’s chances of passing this year, despite DeWine’s opposition.