GOP Leaders Chip Away At Ohio’s Cannabis Law As December 7 Legalization Looms

The Ohio Senate is expected to meet Monday to review proposals to change the voter-approved initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis, known as Issue 2, which goes into effect on December 7. Because Issue 2 is a statute, the legislature can amend and repeal parts of it. 

Unlike the recently approved constitutional amendment giving women the right to choose, the General Assembly can repeal and amend initiated statutes like the one addressing marijuana. Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens and Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman have all made clear their plans to change the initiative that was approved by 57% of Ohio voters. 

Changes On The GOP Chopping Block

Some of the potential changes the Republican leadership has said it is seeking include modifications to the level of taxation and how revenues are distributed across the state. Issue 2 sought for at least 36% of the cannabis tax revenue to go to socially disadvantaged groups and those affected by non-violent marijuana-related arrests. GOP leaders are seeking the lion’s share of tax revenue to be earmarked for law enforcement.

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THC limits and protections for businesses that enact zero-tolerance anti-drug policies, and clarifications about outdoor marijuana consumption are among other issues on the GOP chopping block. 

How these various changes will meld into legislation that can pass both chambers remains to be seen. Two bills have already been introduced in the House that seek some of these changes.

Racing Against The Clock

DeWine and Huffman have pushed for urgency in making changes, while House Speaker Stephens (R) has expressed a more cautious approach, saying the legislature need not rush.

Some Republican lawmakers, such as Ohio Sen. Mark Romanchuk, have even suggested that the entire initiated statute should be removed and the Senate should instead vote to legalize recreational marijuana by adding it into the state’s existing medical marijuana laws, reported Cleveland.com. Again, how that would work is unclear.

Romanchuk didn’t provide many specifics about what parts of the initiative would or would not be added to the medical law if the idea were to gain traction. He told the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association he’d likely be a “no” vote on any recreational marijuana proposals and that he would not be surprised to see in a bill “that we completely delete the language that was passed at the ballot.”

“Now I know you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s not the will of the voters.’ But In exchange for deleting all of that language that was passed at the ballot, we will build on top of the current medical marijuana program and legalize recreational using that statute that’s already in place,” Romanchuk said.

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