Ohio Senate President Shuts Down Cannabis Legalization Measure 

Ohio Senate President Shuts Down Cannabis Legalization Measure 

Despite groundbreaking support from Republicans in 2021 to move forward with cannabis legalization, there’s still pushback from members of the party in certain states. Not every Republican feels that it’s in the best interest of their community to introduce cannabis law reform bills, especially aiming towards bringing adult-use recreational cannabis to communities. 

Ohio, specifically, is facing some significant pushback among the Republicans in the state’s Senate. Per the Colombus Dispatch, the Ohio General Assembly, comprised mainly of Republicans, does not seem keen on introducing these bills anytime soon. R-Lima Senate President Matt Huffman shut down any possibilities of bringing the vote to his chamber. However, he indicated he wouldn’t shut down if the initiative went on the ballot. “I don’t want anybody to misunderstand my position,” Huffman said. “I’m not going to bring it to the Senate floor. And if that means people want to go put it on the ballot, have at it.”

Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s fight for legalization has not slowed down. In recent times, they’ve stirred up significant support among Ohioans to bring the proposal to lawmakers in the state. They submitted an adequate number of signatures that would allow Ohio lawmakers to consider bringing it to the floor. Unfortunately, President Huffman’s statement flatly lays out the minimal possibilities of that happening.

Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol laid down the groundwork for potential adult-use legalization. Under the group’s proposal, adults aged 21-and-up would be able to purchase and carry upwards of 2.5 ounces of dried cannabis flower and 15 grams of concentrates. Residents would buy flower or even pre-rolls packaged in a compliant-friendly joint case.

Additionally, individuals would be able to grow inside of their homes. The group’s plan includes six plants per person and upwards of 12 for households with several adult-aged cannabis consumers. As for the tax rates, they proposed 10% in sales tax, hoping that the revenue generated would be allocated towards administrative costs and several community-oriented initiatives. The income from taxes would include substance abuse treatment programs and social equity programs, along with money returned to communities with dispensaries and helping create more job opportunities within the cannabis industry on a state level.

The thing is that there are opportunities to bring the bill onto the Senate floor, despite President Huffman’s comments. Seventeen senators could sign on a discharge petition that would bring the issue to the floor against Huffman’s wishes. 

However, even that might not work in favor of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Republican Governor Mike Dewine has expressed that he’s totally against the legalization of cannabis, calling it a “mistake.” He sat down with a group of editorial board members and reporters for Ogden News in January. He claimed that it would introduce even more problems to the state, especially surrounding substance abuse issues. He suggested legalizing cannabis could exasperate other issues like driving under the influence. “I think it’s ridiculous to add an additional problem,” DeWine said. However, he did suggest that he’s willing to accept the Ohio General Assembly voting on reform surrounding medical marijuana laws.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s latest petition might not impact the state just yet. However, they’ll be able to re-submit to add the petition to the general election ballot in November. It would bear similarities to other states fighting for cannabis legalization, opening the floor for residents to vote on the matter. However, by July, CRMLA would need to collect an additional 132,877 signatures — double what they’ve already collected — to have the issue presented on the ballot. It’s already cost CRMLA over $1M to campaign for the first round of signatures, with contributions coming from the Marijuana Policy Project ($700,000) and other medical cannabis operators and businesses offering upwards of $600,000.

CRMLA spokesman Tom Haren explained to Cannabis Business News that the group’s proposal has an idea of the state’s framework for a profitable industry. The revenue from taxes is estimated to be upwards of $400M, Haren said.

“​​It utilizes the existing medical marijuana infrastructure to provide a quick path to legal sales to adults that will provide an alternative for Ohio consumers to the unregulated market or spending their money out of state,” Haren said. 

Ohio voters rejected the issue in 2015, the last time it was presented on the ballot. However, the overwhelming amount of support from across the country to legalize cannabis could be a strong indication that time’s have changed, and people are ready to embrace the benefits of a legal marijuana market. 

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