As Ohioans prepare to vote on a marijuana legalization initiative at the ballot in November, state lawmakers are already thinking about ways they might seek to revise the law if approved. But while top officials like the governor and Senate president oppose the reform, some bipartisan legislators are dismissing the idea that there would be enough opposition to enact a full-on repeal.

The reform initiative, which was certified for the ballot last month after activists turned in enough valid signatures to qualify, has exposed some intra-party divides on cannabis policy.

Gov. Mike DeWine (R) opposes the reform, as does Senate President Matt Huffman (R). But recent polling shows most Republican voters support legalization. A GOP congressman representing Ohio’s 14th district also plans to personally vote for the initiative.

The governor told The Columbus Dispatch that there’s “a lot of discussion that has to take place” around legalization.

States that have enacted adult-use legalization “have seen some things happen, and I don’t think these are things we want to see in Ohio,” he said, without giving specific examples.

Huffman, meanwhile, said that legalization is “really going to be devastating,” arguing that it will lead to increase cannabis consumption by people who were deterred by prohibition.

“There are a lot of people who don’t do something because it’s illegal, believe it or not, and if it’s more accessible to whoever’s going to buy it, it’s going to be more accessible to people who shouldn’t be smoking it,” he said.

Despite Huffman’s position on the measure, so far he has not signaled plans to push for a repeal if voters opt to legalize. The Dispatch reported that he said the margin by which legalization is potentially approved on the ballot will inform his approach to the issue after Election Day.

Meanwhile, other lawmakers say the possibility of a successful repeal effort is unlikely considering that legalization enjoys strong Democratic support and even some GOP support in the legislature.

“There are not a majority of legislators in both chambers that would be pro-repeal,” Rep. Ron Ferguson (R) told The Dispatch. “That’s definitely not the case. You would have no Democrats, and there are not enough Republicans to put them in the top.”

As the Senate’s president, Huffman had an opportunity to advance reform legislation fitted to the lawmakers’ preference after the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) turned in an initial round of signatures for their initiative that triggered a legislative review period.

Legalization supporters—including Rep. Casey Weinstein (D), who has sponsored bipartisan cannabis bills—implored leadership to take that opportunity, contending that inaction would likely mean that activists would have their vision of reform enshrined into state law.

In fact, Weinstein said that there are more GOP lawmakers who privately support legalization who he predicts will feel emboldened to make their views public after voters approve Issue 2 at the ballot.

“That’s my sense. My hope is that the voters passing this—which I think the voters will—will give those reticent, quietly supportive lawmakers that permission they’re waiting for,” he said.

Rather than push to repeal a voter-approved legalization measure, there’s an expectation that the legislature will be positioned to move additional legislation to revise and refine the law next session. For Weinstein, he hopes that means passing legislation to make the industry more “economically accessible.”

Sen. Bill Blessing (R) said that he “would think that the General Assembly would try to work with it if it passes because of the threat of a Constitutional amendment.”

House Speaker Jason Stephens (R) didn’t comment on the specifics of Issue 2, but offered that “they call it the revised code for a reason.”

Unlike the top state Republican lawmakers, U.S. Rep Dave Joyce (R-OH), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said last month that he’ll be voting in favor of the initiative in November. And he encouraged “all Ohio voters to participate and make their voices heard on this important issue.”

The Ohio Ballot Board approved summary language for the legalization measure late last month. It says the measure would legalize and regulate “the cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, possession, home grow, and use of cannabis by adults at least twenty-one years of age.” And it gives an overview of the regulatory structure of the program, social equity provisions, state-level protections for financial institutions that work with the industry and more.

Here are the key provisions of the legalization ballot measure that may appear on the November ballot:

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Meanwhile, the Ohio Association of Health Commissioners, which represents Ohio’s 112 local health departments, became one of the latest groups to come out against the initiative last month. The Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and Adolescent Health Association, as well as law enforcement and some business groups, are also urging voters to reject the reform.

A recent economic analysis from researchers at Ohio State University estimated that the reform would bring in up to $403.6 million in annual tax dollars from adult-use marijuana sales if voters approve it.

If the measure is ultimately enacted, that would bring the total number of states with adult-use legalization on the books to 24.

Ohioans have made clear that they’re ready for a policy change during elections in multiple recent cycles. To date, more than three dozen Ohio localities have enacted decriminalization through the local ballot.

Last November, for example, voters five more cities approved local marijuana decriminalization ballot initiatives. And during a primary election in May, voters in Helena similarly enacted the reform.

Separately, while the governor opposes legalization, he signed a major criminal justice reform bill in January that will let cities facilitate mass expungements for people with certain drug-related convictions, including marijuana possession of up to 200 grams.

After the law took effect, the mayor of Cleveland said in April that the city will be moving forward with plans to seal thousands of cannabis records. However, a study published last month found that just about one in 10 Ohio prosecutors plan to follow suit by independently facilitating relief under the law.

Bipartisan Lawmakers Find ‘Sweet Spot’ For Marijuana Banking Bill, With Section Favored By GOP Kept ‘Intact’ For Committee Vote Next Week

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

The post Ohio Lawmakers Say Prospects Of Marijuana Legalization Repeal Are Unlikely If Voters Approve Reform Initiative In November appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

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