Marijuana Legalization

Cannabis Countdown: Ohioans Can Possess, Use, and Grow Weed Starting December 7th

This is it— the moment we’ve all been waiting for. On November 7th, 2023, Ohioans made a historic decision to legalize recreational weed and became the 24th state in the United States to do so. Issue 2, a ballot measure approved by voters, will usher in a new era of cannabis regulation in the state. Best of all, it takes effect in 30 days. On December 7th, Ohioans can possess, use, and grow their own weed.

The Basics

Issue 2 is an initiated statute that will become official law in December, 2023. While lawmakers still have the power to change it and are trying, things look pretty good. The initiative covered a lot of bases, and now the state needs to get organized to get it going. Issue 2 organized taxing and created five different funds within the Ohio treasury: the adult use tax fund, the cannabis social equity and jobs fund, the host community cannabis fund, the division of cannabis control and tax commissioner fund, and the substance abuse and addiction fund.

When the program finally gets rolling, weed will be taxed at 10% on top of sales tax and allocated to each of these funds to support social equity and jobs programs, municipalities with dispensaries, substance abuse funds, and, of course, administrative costs.

Issue 2 also establishes a Division of Cannabis Control under the Ohio Department of Commerce. Its job will be to regulate the industry by investigating and penalizing adult-use operators, testing labs, and anyone with a license. They have nine months to get those rules together and start issuing licenses. That said, we’re expecting licenses to be given by August 2024 and dispensaries to begin opening shortly after.

The law will also take social equity into account, designed to assist business owners disproportionately affected by past marijuana law enforcement, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds or with prior marijuana-related arrests or convictions. Forty cultivation licenses and fifty dispensary licenses are reserved for program participants who will receive grants, loans, technical assistance, and reduced license and application fees.

The Division of Cannabis Control will also have to work with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to make sure cannabis addiction programs can be in place when everything goes live.

All that is to say that the foundation is set for a pretty strong and effective cannabis program, similar to the ones in other recreational states. A recent study by the Ohio State University Drug Enforcement and Policy Center believes that within five years of operation, the tax revenue from legalizing cannabis could range from $276 million to $403 million. All of which is money being taken away from the black market and Michigan’s legal market to be put straight back into Ohio communities.

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What Does This Mean for Ohio Residents?

Bureaucratic stuff aside, adults aged 21 and older can use, possess, and grow marijuana on December 7th, 2023. They can possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and 15 grams of extracts and grow up to 6 plants per person— up to 12 max per household.

While recreational dispensaries in Ohio will likely not open for another year or two as the state establishes the rules for licensing, product standards, packaging, and more, residents can use and grow their own. The first round of licenses will be issued to existing medical marijuana businesses and eligible operators under the social equity program, but additional licenses won’t be available for another two years.

However, it’s currently unclear whether or not smoking weed is legal everywhere. As far as public places go, smoking marijuana is subject to the state’s smoking ban, with some exceptions. Using it in public areas could lead to a minor misdemeanor, but property owners and “any public place” can also decide their own policies. Keep that in mind, and keep a close eye on the news (and your landlord) as more policies come into place surrounding Issue 2.

Driving under the influence will always result in a DUI, and Ohio’s current OVI laws apply. At some point, the state will establish rules for delivery and online/mobile ordering for dispensaries, although we’re still far from that. We’re just getting started!

What does Issue 2 mean for Cities and Businesses?

More or less, it’s going to take some time to work out the kinks. While we have a general understanding of the rules, things may be subject to change as things get moving. For example, public and private employers can set their own policies regarding drug testing and on-the-job marijuana use. It may be legal at first, but they may be allowed to fire you over THC use at any time. Employers have the discretion to discipline or refuse to hire people who use marijuana.

Further, cities and towns all have the authority to change some of the laws. While local governments cannot ban marijuana use or home cultivation, they can prohibit having adult-use dispensaries within their limits. However, existing medical dispensaries may petition to sell adult-use cannabis sooner. Which makes sense, considering they’re getting first dibs on the recreational licenses.

So What's Next?

Right now, we’re playing the waiting game. As of December 7th, residents are eligible to possess, use, and begin growing their own cannabis, but recreational dispensaries in Ohio are still a fair bit into the future. Lawmakers will be hard at work considering tax rates, THC content caps, business licenses, social programs, and the social equity program. Some legislators may seek to get tax revenue from cannabis for law enforcement, jails, and addiction programs.

Whenever a new state legalizes weed, lawmakers work hard to reinvent the wheel, and it takes time to hire the right people, establish the right programs, and get everything working smoothly before the first sales can take place. The social equity program aims to address historical disparities, and the impact on employers and municipalities remains to be seen. So, in the meantime, kick back, relax, and enjoy the win. You can start using and growing your own weed next month. Congratulations, Ohio!

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