Jun 6, 2023 - News

2023 could be Ohio's year for legalized marijuana

Illustration of a checkmark with a marijuana leaf on the end.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A new bill could change the landscape of marijuana in Ohio, but how close are we to legalization?

Why it matters: The legalization of recreational marijuana could net the state up to $374 million in annual tax revenue, according to an April 2022 study by The Ohio State University, while creating jobs and lowering arrest rates.

Driving the news: House Bill 168 — introduced last month by Reps. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) and Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) — would legalize the growing, purchase and possession of marijuana for Ohioans age 21 and older.

  • “Adult-use [cannabis] is good for our economy, good for our justice system, and the right thing to do,” Weinstein said in a press release. “Ohioans are ready to legalize cannabis.”

Details: HB 168 would rename Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program to the Division of Marijuana Control, regulating both the state's medical marijuana and recreational programs.

  • The bill would also put a 10% sales tax on adult-use cannabis products and establish an expungement process for low-level marijuana convictions.

Meanwhile, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is collecting signatures to get its own similar proposal on the November ballot.

  • HB 168 would allow the legislature to maintain control over the details of marijuana legalization.

The big picture: This year, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware and Minnesota have legalized recreational marijuana, pushing the total to 23 states.

Zoom in: According to a 2022 Spectrum News/Siena College poll, 60% of Ohioans support legalizing recreational marijuana.

What they're saying: "It's certainly looking like this may be the year," Jonathan H. Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, tells Axios.

  • "The legislature wants to keep control over legalization if it's going to happen," he says. "There's broad public support at a time when the number of states legalizing recreational use is increasing rapidly."

What's next: HB 168 is awaiting its first committee hearing in the Ohio House Finance Committee.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to attribute a quote about the legalization of recreational marijuana to Jonathan H. Adler, the inaugural chairholder of the Johan Verheij Memorial Professorship at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

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