An activist-led petition for marijuana legalization in Ohio could be on the November ballot now that state lawmakers have declined to evaluate the change.
The 34-page bill proposed by The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol aimed to impose a 10 percent tax on the sale of all cannabis products and legalize the possession, purchase, and sale of marijuana by Ohio residents aged 21 and older.
In January, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose introduced the reform proposal to the legislature beginning the four-month time frame for lawmakers to consider it. If lawmakers did not take action advocates could then gather more signatures to get the issue on the November ballot. The four-month deadline expired on May 4th with no action taken.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has said that it is employing paid petition circulators to collect 124,046 signatures by July 5th in order to qualify for this November’s ballot. They say that they are “confident” they will be able to collect the additional valid signatures from registered voters to ensure ballot placement before the deadline.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), marijuana is a mind-altering (psychoactive) drug, produced by the Cannabis sativa plant.
Republican officials have stated that they oppose the drug’s recreational use and are instead focusing on improving Ohio’s medical marijuana program. Two more cannabis legalization initiatives introduced last year have stalled in the Statehouse.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) has previously said that he thinks a marijuana ballot question “would fail as bad as the last one,” citing a 2015 marijuana legalization measure that approximately 65 percent of the electorate opposed.
According to The Recovery Center, a study released in October 2012 found that individuals treated for addiction to marijuana had a higher mortality rate than those with diagnoses related to cocaine or alcohol but lower than those with methamphetamine or opioid-related disorders.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that studies link marijuana use to depression, anxiety, suicide planning, and psychotic episodes. They do not know, however, if marijuana use is the cause of these conditions.
The Republican Study Committee (RSC), a 156-member GOP House Caucus, unveiled the Family Policy Agenda in September of last year, which includes a “danger of drugs” section entirely about cannabis legalization and how it leads to violent crime and suicide.
“Congress should not legalize marijuana, while also taking steps to constrain this new industry’s ability to harm children. At the very least, Congress should direct the CDC to gather data and conduct studies on the health impacts of THC use during childhood and early adolescence with a special focus on deaths by suicide and those involved in violent crime to provide Congress and the public with further information about these dangers,” the Family Policy Agenda reads.
In 2015, Ohio voters defeated an initiated constitutional amendment that would have legalized the limited sale and use of marijuana and created 10 facilities with exclusive commercial rights to grow marijuana. The vote margin was 63.65 percent to 36.35 percent. ResponsibleOhio PAC sponsored the initiative.
This is a proposed law, not a change to the constitution. State legislators can amend or abolish laws, including ones that were enacted by voters, but only a superseding amendment that has been adopted by the general public can change or repeal constitutional amendments.
The conservative Center for Christian Virtue says they will fight efforts to legalize cannabis in Ohio. Its leader, Aaron Baer, says the group opposed the failed 2015 attempt to legalize pot and will fight again.
“The marijuana industry is not going to be able to fool another state, is not going to be able to fool Ohioans with their lies and their empty promises of what marijuana will do for our state. The tax revenue is not true. The harmless effect of it is not true. The reality, it brings devastation,” Baer said.
“Given the problems caused by other substances, such as driving under the influence, “I think it’s ridiculous to add an additional problem,” DeWine said.
In November last year, five Ohio cities approved local marijuana decriminalization ballot initiatives during the midterm election.
Marijuana and THC remain illegal at the federal level, even though many states have legalized their use.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that if passed, Ohio would join 21 other states in legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Frank LaRose” by Georgebailey2015. CC BY-SA 4.0. Background Photo “Marijuana” by CRYSTALWEED cannabis.