Gridlock on Ohio Marijuana Amendments

The TDR Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Legislative Gridlock on Marijuana Amendments: Ohio efforts to refine its adult-use marijuana law are stalled, showing the challenges of modifying voter-approved cannabis legislation. The Ohio House has not advanced significant changes proposed by the Senate, indicating difficulties in updating the regulatory framework.
  2. Key Proposals for Tax and Licensing Adjustments: Proposals include increasing the marijuana tax rate from 10% to 15%, introducing limits on home cultivation, and enabling local taxes. Ohio House Bill 86 also suggests automatic expungements for certain possession offenses, aiming to address economic and legal aspects of legalization.
  3. Revenue Allocation and Community Impact: Proposed changes affect how marijuana tax revenue in Ohio is distributed, with implications for law enforcement training, substance abuse treatment, and mental health services. The debate continues over the optimal allocation of funds to support community health, safety, and equity amid legalization.

In Ohio, as reported by the Ohio Capital Journal, legislative efforts to amend the state’s new adult-use marijuana law have hit a standstill again, highlighting the complexities involved in refining cannabis legislation. Despite the Ohio Senate passing a bill in December to modify the law, the Ohio House has not advanced this bill or its own proposed changes. The state’s move to legalize marijuana in December, following the passage of Issue 2 by Ohio voters in November, initiated a process to establish a regulatory framework for the sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana. However, Ohioans are currently in a limbo where they can grow up to six plants per person (or 12 per residence) but cannot legally purchase marijuana until the licensing and certification of facilities are completed, expected to start by September 7, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce.

The legislation in question includes significant alterations to the original law, such as adjusting the business structure for dispensary licenses and tax revenue allocation. One of the bills, House Bill 86, proposes an increase in the marijuana tax rate from 10% to 15% at the point of sale, with provisions for local governments to add an additional tax. This bill also seeks to limit home cultivation to six plants per household and includes automatic expungements for possession of 2.5 ounces or less. Governor Mike DeWine has expressed support for HB 86, stating it would help eliminate the black market. Another proposed bill, House Bill 354, aims to clarify aspects of Issue 2, particularly regarding home cultivation and the distribution of tax revenue to various state funds.

The distribution of revenue under HB 86 would support a variety of state and local initiatives, including county jail construction, law enforcement training, substance abuse treatment, and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline fund, among others. HB 354 suggests a different allocation, emphasizing support for the host community cannabis fund, cannabis social equity and jobs fund, and mental health services, including funding for Ohio’s 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

The delay in legislative action reflects the challenges in balancing the will of the voters with practical concerns about the marijuana market’s structure, taxation, and the impact on communities. While proponents of the original Issue 2 argue that the voter-approved initiative provides a complete regulatory framework for recreational marijuana, lawmakers are navigating the intricacies of implementing a system that addresses public safety, equity, and economic implications. As discussions continue, stakeholders and Ohio residents are closely watching for how these legislative efforts will shape the state’s approach to recreational marijuana.

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