Ohio Governor Seeks Changes To Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine said this week that he will seek changes to Issue 2, the state’s recreational marijuana initiative that voters passed on Tuesday. The governor called on the legislature to amend the approved ballot measure, which legalizes recreational pot for adults aged 21 and older and establishes a regulatory framework for the legal production and sale of adult-use cannabis.

“What the people have clearly told us is they want legal marijuana in Ohio,” DeWine told reporters after an event in Columbus, according to a report from the Columbus Dispatch. “We are going to see that they have that, but we’ve also got to live up to our responsibility to all the people in the state of Ohio, whether they voted for it or voted against it … that we do this in a very responsible way, we do it in a respectful way. And we do it, frankly, the Ohio way.”

Ohio voters legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday with the passage of Issue 2, a ballot measure that received 57% of the vote in Tuesday’s election. With the passage of the initiative, Ohio is now one of the nation’s 24 states that have legalized cannabis for adults. Washington, D.C. has also decriminalized marijuana, but federal lawmakers have so far blocked the establishment of adult-use cannabis dispensaries in the nation’s capital.

As an initiated statute, Issue 2 is subject to changes by the Ohio state legislature. That is in contrast to Issue 1, a ballot measure to enshrine abortion and other reproductive rights in the state constitution that was also passed by Ohio voters on Tuesday.

DeWine Lists Goals For Changes To Issue 2

DeWine said he had several goals for changes to Issue 2, although he did not provide any specific legislative proposals. He called for children to be shielded from cannabis advertising and for policies to protect children from cannabis edibles. The governor also called for measures to ensure the state does not see an increase in cases of impaired driving, as well as policies to protect the public from exposure to marijuana smoke.

“I had the experience a month or so ago being in some unnamed state, you walked around the city and there was a rare time when you were not smelling marijuana,” DeWine said. “The voters have said people have a right to smoke marijuana – that’s fine. But other people have the right not to smell it and not to have their kids and grandkids exposed to it.”

Issue 2 is scheduled to go into effect on December 7. DeWine asked lawmakers to move swiftly and make changes to the ballot measure before it is officially enacted.

“There’s a lot of holes in what was passed,” the governor said. “I think (it) would be good if that was all done and done by the seventh so that we’re not in a situation of taking something away from people. We’re not in a situation of telling them, ‘For X number of days it’s going to be one thing, and then an X number of days after that it’s going to be something else.”

Legislature’s Republican Leaders Back Changes

DeWine is likely to see cooperation from the state’s GOP-majority legislature, where Republican leaders indicated their willingness to amend the marijuana legalization ballot measure before voters even went to the polls. House Speaker Jason Stephens issued a statement on Tuesday, saying, “With the passage of Issue 2, now is the time for the legislature to lead on how best to allocate tax revenues while responsibly regulating the industry. Investing in county jail construction and funding law enforcement training across Ohio should be our top priority to make our communities safer.”

Senate President Matt Huffman also released a statement and, according to the Columbus Dispatch, has committed to making changes to Issue 2 before it goes into effect on Tuesday.

“This statute was written by the marijuana industry and should not be treated as a cash grab for their cash crop at the expense of a state trying to emerge from the opioid epidemic,” Huffman said. “The General Assembly may consider amending the statute to clarify the questionable language regarding limits for THC and tax rates as well as other parts of the statute.”

Campaign Calls On Officials To ‘Respect The Will Of Voters’

After Ohio’s Republican leaders indicated their intention to scale back Issue 2, Tom Haren, a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the sponsor of the ballot measure, said that political leaders should follow the will of voters as expressed through Tuesday’s vote.

“I can’t believe in 2023 we’re actually talking about elected officials not respecting the will of the voters and not respecting the outcome of an election,” Haren said on Tuesday. “I expect, I think that every single voter in Ohio has a right to expect, that elected officials will implement and respect the will of voters.”

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