Inside Ohio’s Recreational Cannabis Debate: Public Opinion vs. Political Opposition
Buckle up, Ohioans, because this debate is heating up, and it’s shaping the future of cannabis in the Buckeye State. The battle over recreational cannabis in Ohio has reached a boiling point as the November ballot inches closer.
Issue 2, a ballot measure scheduled for the November election, is the epicenter of a massive debate that has been going on since roughly 2015 when cannabis was first on the ballots for legalization. Ultimately, it flunked back then between the politics as well as the average voter’s opinion on cannabis.
However, things are a little different now. According to a recent poll by Fallon Research, a massive 59% of Ohioans support the legalization of recreational cannabis. It’s getting overwhelming support from the average voter today compared to 2015 when only 35% of voters approved of legalizing weed.
If Issue 2 passes, it would legalize and regulate recreational weed in Ohio, treating it like alcohol and making it available for adults aged 21 and above. If you’ve been following us for a while, there’s been a lot of discourse on the matter that we’ve covered.
Opponents of Issue 2 include the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. Governor DeWine has been particularly vocal in his opposition, citing concerns about the potency of today’s marijuana and the message it sends to young people. It’s a tug-of-war with strong arguments on both sides.
Despite his reservations, the poll suggests that a majority of Ohioans are leaning toward legalization anyway. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is spearheading the proposal, which would allow Ohioans to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis in most forms and grow up to six plants at home per person, or a maximum of 12 plants per household. The 10% tax on sales would fund regulatory efforts, support communities hosting cannabis facilities, establish a “cannabis social equity and jobs fund,” and provide addiction services.
To the average voter, that all sounds pretty good. To take it a step further, legalizing weed might be one of the best ways to support the economy in Ohio. Right now, Ohio is full of weed purchased across state lines in Michigan, which is fostering a black market. Legalizing cannabis in Ohio would not only keep this revenue within the state but also contribute to vital infrastructure improvements. Ohioans know firsthand the sorry state of their roads, and the proposed 10% tax on cannabis sales could help address these issues.
As early voting commenced in Ohio, Republican state senators passed a resolution urging residents to reject it altogether.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R) expressed deep reservations about the potential consequences of legalization, stating that if Issue 2 passes, “this initiated statute is coming right back before this body.” He cited concerns about the potential for a mental health crisis, predicting that Ohio would face long-lasting ramifications and increased costs if legalization becomes law. Huffman also emphasized worries about specific provisions within the measure, such as the allocation of state tax revenue to support people applying for cannabis business licenses under the social equity program.
Regardless, several of his claims, along with the claims of Governor DeWine, aren’t exactly based in reality. For example, the claim that legalization would lead to a surge in youth cannabis use lacks substantial evidence. Studies conducted in other states that have legalized weed haven’t shown a significant increase in teen use. In fact, research in Canada indicated that young adults are using weed less than they were before legalization.
Further, some federally funded research from the United States published in August found that teen marijuana use remains stable despite the ongoing legalization movement, even as adult use of cannabis reached historic levels.
However, the fate of cannabis legalization in Ohio is far from guaranteed, even if the voters say yes. Since Issue 2 is a citizen-initiated statute and not a constitutional amendment, state lawmakers still have the authority to repeal or adjust the program after the election. Political analysts suggest that Republicans might be motivated to act against the public’s wishes, considering a potentially favorable presidential election year in 2024. However, the majority of lawmakers doubt it.
Nonetheless, public opinion on marijuana legalization in Ohio as well as having open medical dispensaries has experienced a massive shift in recent years, much like the acceptance of same-sex marriage, especially among younger generations. Ohio’s decision on Issue 2 could set the stage for further cannabis policy reform measures across the nation, as it often serves as a political trendsetter.
Ohioans will cast their votes on Issue 2 in the upcoming election, and their decision will shape the state’s cannabis policy for years to come. As you prepare to cast your votes in the upcoming election, take care to weigh the pros and cons of both sides. We might be a little biased, but as we’ve seen in other states, legalization offers a lot of good.
The decision will ultimately define Ohio’s stance on cannabis legalization and its potential consequences for public health, safety, and revenue generation in the future.