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Legal pot supporters in Ohio see path forward in 2023

Statehouse News Bureau
Marijuana plant

Pot will not be legalized for personal use in Ohio by the end of this year, but supporters say there are several paths forward for the issue in 2023.

There were two bills proposed in the Ohio House to legalize marijuana for adult use, one bill was sponsored by Republicans and the other was sponsored by Democrats — but both were nearly identical.

The measures would regulate pot the same as alcohol.

There were many members of the Ohio General Assembly that supported the legalization of marijuana for personal use, but Republican leadership in the House and Senate effectively blocked the bill.

Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson), who sponsored one of the bills, said there’s wide support for the issue among Ohioans. He said the disconnect between the will of the voters and legislative leadership means the issue will likely go to the ballot.

"It tells me that citizens should have a path to make this law, and that today in Ohio — and I hope ongoing in Ohio— is a ballot initiative. So I think you're going to see a lot of energy over the coming months and into the next General Assembly on that path," Weinstein said, explaining that lawmakers will try for a bill again as citizens try to put it on the ballot.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol attempted to put the issue on the 2022 ballot with an initiated statute. However, there was a dispute with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and the legislature over whether the petition signatures were turned in with enough time to make it on the ballot.

The coalition, secretary of state’s office, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) reached a settlement where the coalition agreed to hold off on its petition until 2023.

Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord), who sponsored the other bill to legalize marijuana, says the issue requires a paradigm shift especially for Reagan Republicans who came through the “just say no” era.

He said the issue will gain support as they fight against misinformation and eliminate the stigma around marijuana.

“It is more age based than gender, income, or party. So as the legislature gets younger, I have a feeling we'll see more support within the legislative body,” said Callender.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said it plans to begin collecting signatures to put the issue on the ballot if the legislature doesn’t move on the issue by May.

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