A busy year for retail cannabis legalization in the U.S. could see its fifth state go rec after the attorney general in Ohio approved revised language this weekend for a law calling to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
After rejecting a version of the bill submitted on Aug. 5, Ohio AG Dave Yost approved the revised language on Saturday, which would allow adults age 21 and older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow as many as six plants in their homes.
In a letter to lobbyist John Gilligan of Columbus-based Ice Miller law firm, Yost called the revised summary a “fair and truthful statement of the proposed statute.”
A 10 percent tax on cannabis sales would help the state fund public education and also subsidize addiction treatment centers in areas with marijuana businesses, according to the initiative. Most of Ohio’s 47 medical marijuana dispensaries are backing the plan, in part because it’d give them first dibs on licenses to sell rec for the program’s first two years.
The proposed law would also provide 40 new recreational cultivation licenses and 50 additional rec store permits for social equity applicants, who the bill defines as people from minority groups and communities most negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition. Local municipalities would be allowed to opt out of allowing rec stores or at least limit the number of marijuana businesses to operate within their borders.
Yost’s approval is the first step in a process that could be completed before the end of 2021. It could also be delayed as long as next year’s elections in November. The bill must now be certified the Ohio Ballot Board and then needs about 133,000 signatures from registered voters before state lawmakers can officially rule on it.
Once it gets to the state legislature, Ohio’s Republican-controlled House and Senate will have four months to pass the bill. If they don’t pass it, advocates would need another 133,000 signatures for the initiative to be included on next year’s ballot.
While marijuana legalization bills have generally been led by Democrats in the U.S., Ohio Republicans were in charge of backing medical cannabis legalization in 2016. The state’s first dispensaries opened in January 2019.
Other states to go rec in 2021 include New Mexico, Connecticut, New York and Virginia.