Ohio’s secretary of state has formally resubmitted an activist-led marijuana legalization petition to the legislature, giving lawmakers four months to consider the reform. If they don’t act, advocates could then collect additional signatures to place the issue on the November ballot for voters to decide on.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) sent a letter to legislative leaders on Wednesday, explaining that he is fulfilling his obligation to present the reform initiative to the legislature on the first day of the new session and kicking off the four-month window for lawmakers to take up the measure.
The campaign Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) worked strenuously to put the legalization initiative on the November 2022 ballot, but procedural complications prevented that from happening. Activists turned in enough signatures to initiate the legislative review, but the timing of their initial submission was challenged.
CTRMLA’s lawsuit to force ballot placement was unsuccessful with respect to the 2022 election, but the state agreed to a settlement that meant they will not have to collect another round of initial signatures and that the initiative would be immediately retransmitted to the legislature at the start of the 2023 session.
“As stipulated in the Settlement Order, today shall be considered the date on which the German Assembly’s four-month period to consider the proposed law begins, as provided for in Article II, Section 1b of the Ohio Constitution, and no parties shall take any direct or indirect action in contravention of this re-transmission,” the secretary of state wrote to lawmakers.
When the legislature was presented with the initiative last year, lawmakers declined to act. It’s unclear if they will move on it this session or if it will ultimately be left up to activists to have voters decide on the issue. Legislative inaction after this four-month window will mean that the campaign will have to collect another round of 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters to secure ballot placement.
“The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pleased that our proposal was re-transmitted to the Ohio General Assembly and that the Secretary of State clarified that the General Assembly’s four-month clock to consider our proposal has begun,” Tom Haren, a spokesperson for the campaign, told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday.
“As we have always said, we intend to work with legislative leadership in good faith to legalize marijuana for all adults through the legislative process,” he said. “If the General Assembly fails to act, however, we will place our proposal before Ohio voters this November and it will pass.”
Last session, a pair of Ohio Democratic lawmakers separately filed a bill to legalize marijuana that directly mirrored the proposed ballot initiative, but it did not advance in time.
A GOP legislator who sponsored a different bill to tax and regulate cannabis has tempered expectations about the chances for legislative reform, signaling that the issue will likely have to be decided by voters.
The House Finance Committee held a hearing on the Democratic and Republican legalization bills last month, but no votes were held.
Ohioans have made clear that they’re ready for a policy change during elections in multiple recent cycles, including this latest one in November where voters in five more cities approved local marijuana decriminalization ballot initiatives.
A recent poll found that a majority of Ohio voters would support marijuana legalization at the ballot statewide.
As of September, Ohio medical marijuana sales officially surpassed the $1 billion mark since dispensaries started serving patients in April 2019, state data shows.
Even if lawmakers does decide to pursue legalization this session, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is opposed to the broad reform and previously indicated that he would veto such a proposal.
That said, he signed legislation on Tuesday that will let cities facilitate mass expungements for people with certain drug-related convictions, including marijuana possession of up to 200 grams, while also protecting people from getting criminal records for possessing cannabis paraphernalia.
Read the Ohio secretary of state’s letter on resubmitting the marijuana initiative below:
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.