GOP’s Stunning Reversal: Ohio Senate Approves Cannabis Sales, Home Grow & Expungement

In a surprise move Ohio’s GOP-controlled Senate passed a revised bill significantly expanding the scope of the state’s voter-approved cannabis initiative, known as Issue 2. The legislation put forward by the Senate, rather than gutting the initiative as advocates feared, will allow adults to start buying cannabis from existing medical marijuana dispensaries in as soon as 90 days. It also maintains the right to cultivate marijuana plants at home and includes a key provision for the automatic expungement of certain past cannabis-related convictions. 

In a stunning reversal, Gov. Mike DeWine and state Senate leader Matt Huffman who’d vowed to significantly alter Issue 2, have now thrown their support behind the amended bill, which passed the full Senate in a 28-2 vote. 

Initially, the Senate General Government Committee proposed eliminating home cultivation and delaying legalization. However, after angry public testimony and advocacy this past week, the committee revised the legislation, maintaining the right to grow up to six plants per household (down from the initially proposed 12).

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In a Wednesday night press conference before the Senate Session reconvened, DeWine urged the House to expedite the Bill’s passage, stressing the importance of safe and regulated cannabis consumption and the bill’s role in preventing the expansion of the black market as well as the practice of Ohioans buying their cannabis in neighboring Michigan.

“Without the enactment of this bill, we will have the following situation: While it will be legal for Ohio citizens to possess marijuana, there will be no place for them to legally buy it,” DeWine said. “This bill deals with this and deals with it by speeding up the time when adults will be able to produce recreational marijuana legally, thus reducing the opportunity for the black market.” 

The amended legislation offers several key features not included in the original Issue 2 initiative. These include:

Immediate access to cannabis: Adults will be able to purchase marijuana from existing medical dispensaries within 90 days, allowing for a smoother transition to the adult-use market.

Key Points:

  • With legal cannabis going into effect on Thursday, adults can begin buying cannabis from existing medical marijuana shops in 90 days
  • Home cultivation is an important demand the GOP Senate approved after pressure from advocates who supported Issue 2

Automatic expungements: Notably, the bill includes a provision for the automatic expungement of certain past cannabis-related convictions, a feature strongly advocated for but was not included in the original Issue 2 initiative.

Tax revenue allocation: Revenue generated from marijuana sales will be allocated towards various initiatives, including drug addiction treatment, veterans’ programs and local law enforcement.

While the Senate swiftly passed Senate Bill 86, the House’s stance remains unclear though Rep. Jamie Callendar introduced a bill Tuesday that was closely aligned with Issue 2 so the likelihood of the House accepting the revised Senate bill is favorable. 

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