Will Ohio Legalize Marijuana in 2019 for Recreational Use?
Will Ohio, “the heart of America,” legalize recreational marijuana in 2019 for adult use? This Midwestern state is the 7th most populated in the U.S. but ranks 34th in terms of size, making it the 10th most densely populated state in the country. And with a climate and geography well suited for cultivating cannabis, if Ohio does legalize marijuana it could become a major player in the North American cannabis market.
However, the state faces some obstacles when it comes to the full legalization of recreational marijuana. Let’s take a look at what’s happening the state, who’s for and who’s against legalizing marijuana in Ohio in 2019, as well as the initiatives that are taking place and their chances are of succeeding.
Voters in the state have already given the thumbs up to medical marijuana legislation. Although the program, which was approved by voters in 2016, has gotten off to a slow start, dispensaries are expected to commence sales in early 2019. Because of this, residents seem to be lightening up about lighting up a recreational marijuana program.
The 2019 Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative
Back in May of 2018, the Ohio Ballot Board certified a proposed constitutional amendment which is being put forth by an organization called Ohio Families for Change. The Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, as it is called, will ask voters to decide whether or not to implement the Marijuana Rights and Regulations Amendment. The proposed amendment to the state’s constitution would allow Ohioans 21 and older to possess and share reasonable amounts of marijuana as well as to grow their own.
If petitioners are successful at collecting enough signatures, the measure would appear on the ballot in Ohio on November 5, 2019, as what is called an initiated constitutional amendment. However, in order for the measure to make it onto the state’s 2019 ballot, the group must collect more than 300,000 valid signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Will the group succeed? If past history is any indication, it’s not going to be an easy task.
Although eight petitions to legalize marijuana have been certified by authorities over the past five years, only one has made it onto a ballot. Even though a 2015 Quinnipiac University poll showed that 53% of Ohio voters were ready to legalize recreational marijuana, voters rejected the previous attempt by a margin of 2 to 1. Many believe the measure failed because it gave a monopoly to a handful of stakeholders. Those pushing the new initiative promise not to make that same mistake again.
Ian James, director of the ResponsibleOhio, the campaign behind the 2015 initiative claims that the Quinnipiac poll confirms that Ohio voters want to legalize marijuana. Here’s what he had to say at the time:
“Ohioans want to legalize adult personal use of marijuana and to provide medical marijuana for the compassionate care of the chronically ill. “We’re confident that Ohioans will reject the status quo and end failed marijuana prohibition in November by voting Yes on Issue 3 to provide a highly-regulated, taxed and tested system for legalization. Passing Issue 3 will make medical marijuana available, create tens of thousands of jobs and generate needed revenue for local communities’ safety services and infrastructure.”
Although Issue 3 was defeated, the chances of the 2019 Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative passing look pretty good.
Opposition To Legal Marijuana In Ohio
Although voters approved the 2016 medical marijuana initiative by a comfortable margin, it’s not clear if residents in the state are ready to move on creating a recreational market. Ohioans have been leaning red in recent elections. Furthermore, the state has already decriminalized marijuana and many voters feel that creating a market for the drug is taking the issue too far.
One of the main opponents to legalizing marijuana in Ohio in 2019 is incoming governor Mike DeWine. On April 20, the state’s former attorney general rejected a petition that sought to fully legalize marijuana in Ohio. And after a 2015 visit to Colorado to assess that state’s legal recreational marijuana program, DeWine stated that he was “alarmed” by the state’s recreational cannabis program, specifically condemning the state’s laws as they pertain to cannabis-infused edibles.
Fortunately, because the initiative would invoke a constitutional amendment, DeWine would not be able to veto legislation offhand. And with more than 50% of the state’s voters in favor of legalizing marijuana, the chances of Ohio legalizing marijuana in 2019 are high (no pun intended).
In the meantime, according to nonprofit marijuana advocacy group NORML, under current Ohio marijuana laws, anyone caught with less than 100 grams of marijuana in their possession faces a misdemeanor charge and a fine of $150. However, if you’re caught selling marijuana in the state you could be looking at a minimum of one year in prison and a fine of $2,500.
If you’d like to help Ohio Families for Change get their marijuana legalization measure onto the 2019 ballot, visit the organization at ohiofamiliesforchange.com.
- Ballotpedia: Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2019)
- Boulder Weekly: Marijuana legalization: Who’s next?
- Dayton Daily News: Recreational marijuana closer to Ohio ballot — but lots of work ahead
- Daytona Daily News: Legalizing recreational marijuana may be back before Ohio voters
- Sandusky Register: Ohio may not be ready to enter world of legal po
- NORML: Ohio Marijuana Laws & Penalties