The supporters of a proposed ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis in Ohio last week submitted petitions with more than 6,500 additional signatures from voters who would like to see the proposal appear on the ballot for this year’s general election. The supplemental signatures were collected and delivered by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Thursday after the group’s original submission last month fell just short of the threshold to trigger a vote on the proposal.
“This submission validates what we’ve said all along: regulating marijuana is popular in Ohio,” campaign spokesman Thomas Haren said in a statement to The Columbus Dispatch on August 3. “We’re looking forward to giving Ohio voters a chance to make their voices heard at the ballot this fall.”
Signature Gathering Originally Fell Short
The coalition submitted more than 222,000 signatures to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose in early July, far more than the 124,046 needed for the initiative to qualify for the ballot for the November 2023 general election. But three weeks later, LaRose revealed that the campaign had collected just over 123,000 verified signatures, adding that the signature verification and tabulation results “indicate that petitioners filed an insufficient number of valid signatures.” He also noted that the campaign would have 10 days to obtain and submit the additional signatures needed to hit the goal.
“To submit a sufficient number of valid signatures, petitioners need an additional 679 valid signatures that are not contained in the original or prior supplementary petitions,” LaRose wrote in a statement on July 25.
After the announcement from the secretary of state, the legalization campaign acknowledged the group’s shortfall in a statement, saying that making up the difference to reach the signature goal would be “easy.”
“It looks like we came up a little short in this first phase, but now we have 10 days to find just 679 voters to sign a supplemental petition – this is going to be easy, because a majority of Ohioans support our proposal to regulate and tax adult-use marijuana,” Haren said in a statement to The Columbus Dispatch. “We look forward to giving Ohio voters a chance to make their voices heard this November.”
The group set to work to gather additional signatures from voters across the state of Ohio, using social media platforms including Reddit to publicize signature-gathering drives. Last week, the campaign submitted an additional 6,545 signatures, one day before the 10-day deadline.
The supplemental petitions will now be delivered to county election boards, where signature verification will take place over an eight-day period. Results from election boards will then be reviewed by LaRose, who will announce if the campaign has received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. On Thursday, the coalition said that legalizing marijuana will benefit the community.
“It works, generates hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue every year and makes sure that consumers have an alternative to the illicit market where they can buy products that they’re confident aren’t laced with illicit substances,” Haren said.
Proposed Ballot Measure Would Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis
If passed, the proposed ballot initiative would legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio for adults 21 and older, who would be permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. The proposal also legalizes marijuana cultivation for personal use, with adults allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants. Households with more than one adult would be permitted to grow a total of 12 plants.
The commercial production and sales of cannabis products would be regulated by a new state agency named the Division of Cannabis Control, which would have the authority to “license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult use cannabis operators, adult use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed.” Cannabis products would carry a 10% tax, which would be dedicated to administrative costs of regulation, substance misuse treatment programs and a social equity and jobs program. Local governments with licensed recreational marijuana dispensaries would also receive a share of cannabis tax revenue. Under the proposal’s social equity program, some cannabis cultivation and dispensary licenses would be reserved for individuals from communities that have faced disproportionate enforcement of Ohio’s current marijuana laws.
“We are proposing to regulate marijuana for adult use, just like we do for alcohol,” Haren said in a press release when the campaign was launched nearly two years ago. “Our proposal fixes a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and benefiting everyone.”
Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016 through a bill passed by the state legislature, leading to the opening of the state’s first regulated cannabis dispensaries in 2019. In 2015, an earlier proposal to legalize adult-use cannabis was successfully added to the ballot, but the measure was defeated by more than 65% of the state’s voters.