A campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio fell short of the number of verified signatures needed to qualify a proposed ballot measure for the ballot, missing its goal by less than 700 signatures. The effort is not dead, however, as activists have been given 10 more days to make up the signature deficit.
On Tuesday, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol had collected more than 123,000 valid signatures from registered voters to put the adult-use cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for an election to be held in November. However, he said that the results of the signature verification and tabulation “indicate that petitioners filed an insufficient number of valid signatures,” adding that the campaign would have 10 days to obtain and submit the additional signatures needed to hit the goal of 124,046 valid signatures.
“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.
After the announcement from the secretary of state, Tom Haren, a spokesman for the legalization campaign, acknowledged the group’s shortfall in a statement on Tuesday, 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.”
If the signature goal is met, the state ballot board will convene to certify the language used on the ballot and begin efforts to prepare for the November election.
Proposal Would Legalize Weed For Adults
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.
LaRose first submitted the coalition’s proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in January 2022, but a dispute with lawmakers over the timing of the initiative led to legal action. Under an agreement between the campaign and legislators, the initiative was kept off the 2022 election ballot, requiring the campaign to wait until this year.
Public opinion is in favor of reform, with a Spectrum News/Siena College poll conducted last year showing that 60% of Ohio voters strongly or somewhat support marijuana legalization. If the proposal succeeds at the polls in November, Ohio will become the 24th state to legalize adult-use cannabis.
“We expect that our proposal is going to pass with a mandate from Ohio voters that we want to follow in the footsteps of the other half of the United States that have legalized and regulated marijuana since 2013,” Haren told WSOU Public Media.