Ohio Lawmakers Stumble Over Recreational Cannabis Regulations Ahead of Winter Recess

Ohio Statehouse leaders are currently in the process of reshaping regulations surrounding cannabis just before their winter break. Despite voters passing Issue 2 in November, empowering the Department of Commerce to formulate rules and issue licenses for recreational dispensaries, the timeline for implementation could extend up to nine months. While the State Senate has approved legislation for immediate availability, the House is blocking it, citing concerns that certain provisions in the Senate proposal contradict the will of the people.

In the end, lawmakers are hesitant to rush the decision-making process, emphasizing the need to ensure accuracy over speed. The opposition has extended to the top of the state legislature, with Senate President Matt Huffman previously stating that he was coordinating bipartisan efforts to modify Ohio’s recently approved cannabis legalization law before its main provisions.

Yesterday, Matt Huffman further emphasized the necessity of adhering to a timeline, expressing a desire to open dispensaries promptly. His proposal includes authorization for medical shops to sell recreational cannabis. Currently, there are no outlets for recreational marijuana in the state, and Issue 2’s language allows for it after approximately a year.

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Huffman points out the risk of illegal sales and black market activity gaining traction during the nine-month waiting period.

Currently, the state Senate’s restrictive legislation, focused on curbing home cultivation and THC levels, is facing resistance from Republican State Rep. Jamie Calendar and House Speaker Jason Stephens. They argue that the Senate’s approach doesn’t align with what voters intended when passing the marijuana policy. Frustration is mounting among senators as they await progress on governing the issue, emphasizing their desire to move the legislation forward.

As 2023 comes to a close, it appears that Ohio state lawmakers will not fulfill their commitment to implementing changes to the adult-use marijuana legalization initiative approved by voters in November. Rather, as the new year approaches, advocates, including current industry participants, are advocating for an expedited launch of what has the potential to become a $2 billion legal cannabis market within the next year.

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