Ohio recreational cannabis

Ohio Votes to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

On November 8th, Ohio voters approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, making Ohio the 24th state in the US to establish an adult-use cannabis market. Under the state’s new laws, all individuals aged 21 and older will be permitted to purchase marijuana at adult-use dispensaries; to consume and possess marijuana; and to grow marijuana at home.

Earlier this summer, Ohio broke headlines when its Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol announced that it had gathered enough signatures to secure recreational marijuana’s place on the November ballot–a tremendous victory in and of itself, after years of failed attempts due to insufficient signature counts. In response to Tuesday’s news, Tom Haren, the Coalition’s spokesperson, has called the outcome a “landslide victory.”

Though Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016, the Coalition has pushed for recreational legalization for years, aiming to expand cannabis access to residents without their medical cards, and to stop the sale of unsafe, unregulated cannabis products on the black market. Previously, only registered cardholders have been able to legally purchase marijuana at medical dispensaries. But once the new adult-use laws take effect, any adult aged 21 and older will be able to enter an adult-use dispensary to purchase safe, legal cannabis products–making the future of purchasing cannabis in Ohio much like the process of purchasing alcohol nationwide.

But what will adult-use cannabis mean for Ohio, and what will an adult-use market look like for the state? In this article, we cover everything you need to know about Ohio’s new recreational cannabis program.

The Ballot

In Ohio’s November 7th election, the measure for recreational legalization–also known as “Issue 2”–won the voter majority. Under Issue 2, Ohio is poised to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail purchase of cannabis among anyone 21 and older. The Associated Press announced the election results on Issue 2 shortly after 9:30pm, reporting that the law was passed with a 56.79% majority of the vote, and approved by 2.144 million out of 3.8 million voters who cast ballots in Tuesday’s election.

For Tom Haren, the spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the passage of Issue 2 has revealed a transition in attitudes towards cannabis statewide:
“Marijuana is no longer a controversial issue. Ohioans spoke loud. They spoke clear. They know that they want a regulated adult use market here in Ohio, they want to get rid of the illicit market, they want to bring that tax revenue back [and] to bring it in and admit and invest that money right back into their local communities.”

Issue 2 is anticipated to bring millions of tax dollars to Ohio communities, while eliminating the sale of potentially unsafe, unregulated cannabis products on the black market.

Commercial cannabis cultivation, production, and sales will be regulated by Ohio’s new Division of Cannabis Control, which will “license, regulate, [and] investigate” state operators to ensure that they pursue business according to state-established quality and safety standards. The Division will also oversee and implement third-party laboratory testing, which will be required to establish the safety and quality of all cannabis products before they reach dispensary shelves.

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New Ohio Marijuana Laws

The new laws approved in Issue 2 will take effect on December 7th, and state regulatory agencies will begin issuing retail licenses for adult-use dispensaries by late 2024.

Once recreational dispensaries open and these new laws take effect, any adult aged 21 and older will be able to buy marijuana at retail stores and pay a 10% upfront sales tax. Adults in Ohio will be permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana flower, and up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. In addition, Issue 2 will also allow Ohio residents to grow cannabis at home, including up to 6 plants per person, or 12 plants in any private residence tenanted by at least 2 adults.

Meanwhile, patients registered with the state’s Medical Marijuana program can continue to use their medical card for tax breaks at dispensaries, while continuing to shop at medical dispensaries designated exclusively for patients with their medical cards.

With the rollout of retail licenses, Ohio will soon see the emergence of various new, adult-use dispensaries statewide.

Meanwhile, many existing medical dispensaries may expand offerings and operations to offer both legal and recreational products. Earlier this summer, several medical dispensaries declared their intention–pending the passage of Issue 2–to become “hybrid” operators, offering both medical and recreational divisions within a single location. Within these hybrid dispensaries, any adult will be able to purchase recreational products designated for adult-use, while medical patients will continue to access patient consultations and therapeutic products restricted for cardholders only.

Tax Revenue, Job Opportunities & Other Statewide Benefits

The passage of Issue 2 is predicted to benefit the wider Ohio community, with financial experts predicting that retail sales will generate between $276.2 million and 403.6 million in tax dollars by the fifth year of sales. Financial reports estimate that Issue 2 will lead to the creation of an adult-use market worth up to $2 billion. Analysts have also estimated that the new law will create over 3,300 new jobs in the first year of legalization alone.

For Lucas McCann of CannDelta Inc, the benefits of Issue 2 will resound far beyond the state’s cannabis community: “Ohioans will soon see a bolstered state economy, increased job opportunities, and tax revenue that can be reinvested in Ohio’s aging infrastructure like schools and hospitals.”

Implications for Other States

For many, the passage of Issue 2 forecasts a continued trend toward adult-use legalization across various other, traditionally conservative states. Marijuana advocates are pushing for recreational legalization on upcoming ballots in other states including Florida, Nebraska, and South Dakota. According to McCann, Tuesday’s results speak favorably for the future of recreational cannabis nationwide: “This step towards cannabis legalization signifies a progressive shift and the beginning of a chapter for the state, reflecting the shifting perceptions of cannabis across America.”

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