Ohio Legalizes Cannabis: What Does it Mean?
It seems that every election cycle, there’s another update on which states have legalized cannabis to a further stage. After voting last week, Ohio voters approved Issue 2, a ballot measure that provides a directive to legalize Cannabis in Ohio, becoming the 24th state to do so.
By a 57 to 43 percent margin, Ohio voters voted to legalize Cannabis, both medical and for personal use, in a major win for medical patients, individual rights, and surrounding states.
The measure would set the agenda for the Ohio legislature to legalize medical cannabis, although not without stiff opposition continuing to be voiced by Republican leadership who have pledged to restrict, hyper-regulate, and delay the process to the best of their abilities.
In a massive win to medical patients, individuals, and personal rights, Home grow was also legalized, allowing higher quality, less expensive cannabis, to be provided to medical patients and individuals alike: Home grow up to six plants per person, and 12 plants per household.
Homegrow is an especially important piece of the ballot measure since the state has capped the number of cultivators at 40. As has been seen in Illinois, New York, and other states, the limited cultivation will no doubt result in a monopolized cannabis industry in Ohio. As seen in other states, the limited number of cultivation licenses will keep prices high for both medical patients, as well as Ohioans.
This in turn will support the traditional market by providing better priced products, and as has been seen through the negligence of MSOs in other states, like Cresco, Curaleaf, Trulieve, and Verano, better product quality as well. With a long history of negligence, and semi-transparent dealings with other state governments, Ohioans can expect the same establishment in the program’s current form. Especially as Republican legislators, and some democrats, have shown preference for larger out of state entities being given priority in the name of “safety” and “regulation”. These businesses have been unable to actually follow through on the promise, making individual access even more important.
The bill has established a Division of Cannabis Control, overseeing the regulatory measures, licensing process, and more for the state, hoping to not only release regulatory measures by fall of 2024, but have licenses be dispersed. An incredibly ambitious timeline, for a program that has seen delays at almost every turn in most states during rollouts and extending proposed or forecasted timelines.
In a major move for businesses, the state tax rate was set at 10%, much lower than many other states, and much better for local businesses. An Ohio State University report estimates that legal marijuana will generate about $300 million a year in revenue for the state.
Further, the tax would also fund a Social Equity and Jobs Program, a measure that was able to be kept despite heavy opposition, although the question of whether it will make it through Republican opposition is still up in the air.
House Speaker (R) Jason Stephens, has already said in reference to changing tax allocations away from jobs programs, and social equity, ““Investing in county jail construction and funding law enforcement training across Ohio should be our top priority to make our communities safer.” In response, Rep. Casey Weinstein, (D) one of the main proponents and backers of the bill tweeted, “BRING. IT. ON”
Citizens, and rights groups may be taking notice as well because of the more center stage debate over Ohio’s right to abortion measure that was also passed. Whether or not this contributed to Cannabis’ legalization in Ohio, is a question that many others may ask as future votes occur in other states.
How this will impact Kentucky legislators and regulations is yet to be seen, but no doubt the next year will be very interesting as both Ohio and Kentucky license, grapple, and continue to change their respective state cannabis programs.
You can read the full text of the ballot measure here.