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Backers of legal recreational marijuana start campaign to bring proposal to Ohio's fall ballot

A marijuana cigarette.
Nathan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
A marijuana cigarette.

A proposed law that would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol in Ohio could be on the ballot this fall, now that state legislators have declined an opportunity to pass that Backers of recreational pot are now moving into the second phase of the initiated statute process.

State lawmakers had four months to act on a proposed law to allow for Ohioans over 21 to buy and use recreational marijuana. That deadline went by on Thursday.

So Tom Haren of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol says it’s hiring paid petition circulators to gather 124,046 signatures by July 5 to make this November’s ballot.

"We'd hoped that the legislature would have engaged with us on this topic, but we suspected that they might not," said Haren. "So we've been ready to start our signature gathering process, and I am supremely confident we will be able to make the July 5 deadline.”

This is a proposed law and not a constitutional amendment. Laws, even those passed by voters, can be changed or repealed by state legislators, but constitutional amendments can only be altered or nullified by a superseding amendment approved by voters. And because it's a proposed law and not a constitutional amendment, it wouldn't be affected by the amendment Republican lawmakers want on an August special election ballot, which would require 60% voter approval for future amendments. That proposal to make it harder to amend the constitution is aimed at the reproductive rights amendment that's expected to be before voters on that same ballot this fall.

Some Republicans have been outspoken on their opposition to legalized pot for anyone who wants it, including Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima). He said in November that recreational marijuana was among "things that I'm against that I won't allow to come to the Senate floor in my position as president."

But Haren said he doesn’t think anti-marijuana lawmakers will try to repeal it if voters approve it.

“We think our proposal is going to pass with such clear margins that the legislature will recognize that this will be a mandate from Ohio voters, that this is good policy for Ohioans," said Haren.

The proposed law would regulate the cultivation, manufacturing and testing of marijuana and impose a 10% tax. It would also allow up to 6 homegrown plants per person and 12 per residence.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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