Will Ohio Legalize Recreational Marijuana in 2023 for 2024?
- Ohio voters could be able to legalize marijuana this year.
- Local organizers have collected enough signatures to secure recreational cannabis’s spot on the upcoming November ballot.
- Ohio’s medical marijuana program isn’t perfect, but it works.
- Future Possibilities for an Adult-Use Market.
After legalizing medical marijuana in 2016, the state of Ohio could soon become an adult-use market, now that local organizers have collected enough signatures to secure recreational cannabis’s spot on the upcoming November ballot. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol broke local news headlines after announcing, in early July, that they had already collected an unprecedented 222,000 signatures in support of the initiative, and required only 679 more to include the issue in the upcoming municipal election.
The Coalition was granted an extension, and just days before the August 4th deadline, they announced that they had gathered “more than enough signatures” to achieve their goal: “Today, our Coalition submitted 6,545 additional signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State, well above the 679 left to get on the ballot this November.”
Once validated, the signatures will be passed to Frank LaRose–Ohio Secretary of State–for certification, and if all goes as planned, residents will have the option to vote in favor of recreational legalization on the November 7th election. Now, the only thing that stands between Ohio and an adult-use market is a simple majority vote, and if successful, the bill would make Ohio the 24th state to legalize cannabis for adult use.
The Coalition has pushed residents and lawmakers to incorporate their petition since January 2022, and the carefully-crafted proposal is modeled off of successful recreational marijuana programs in other legalized states, while incorporating the existing regulatory framework in place for the Ohio’s medical dispensaries. The Coalition’s goal is to transform Ohio into an adult use market in which any resident, aged 21 and older, can simply “walk into” a dispensary and purchase safe, state-regulated cannabis products.
But what would this change mean for Ohio, and how would it impact the state’s current cannabis market? In this article, we address these questions and more. Read on to learn more about how recreational legalization could benefit Ohio consumers, processors, and dispensaries.
The Case Behind Recreational Legalization
The Coalition’s main bargaining points in advancing the petition surround regulation, accessibility, and above all, safety. As Tom Haren, the organization’s spokesperson, pointed out in an interview with Fox45, “Ohio already has an adult-use market; it’s called the illicit market.” By legalizing recreational marijuana, the bill would lift obstacles that are preventing Ohioans from shopping at dispensaries, establishing access to safe, regulated cannabis products for all.
“It’s important to have a strong regulatory framework to make sure products people are buying aren’t laced with illicit substances or contaminated with mold and heavy metals,” Haron continued. And while registered Ohio patients already have this protection, cannabis consumers without a medical license may continue to face these risks when buying products off the illicit market.
Ohio’s medical dispensaries are regulated by the state’s Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), which requires all cannabis products to undergo testing for safety, quality, and transparency before reaching store shelves. These third-party lab tests are conducted by independent laboratories to confirm that products are accurately labeled, while ensuring that they are free of pesticides, harmful chemicals, and contaminants.
“Ohio’s medical marijuana program isn’t perfect, but it works,” said Haren. “It shows Ohio can safely regulate the possession and sale of marijuana products.”
The bill would also decriminalize cultivation and possession of limited amounts of marijuana for Ohio residents. And in addition to these benefits, an adult-use market could bring significant tax revenue to the state, which could, in turn, support local communities.
The Current State of Ohio’s Medical Market
To become a medical cardholder in Ohio, patients must first visit a physician certified to recommend marijuana for qualifying conditions. Next, residents are required to fill out an application to register with the state, and if approved, pay a fee to receive their medical license by mail.
Since the state legalized medical marijuana in 2016, the MMCP has licensed over 90 dispensaries to operate statewide, bringing in over $1.3 billion in cannabis plant sales. To date, the program has certified roughly 660 physicians to recommend medical marijuana, and over 362,000 patients have been licensed.
But as of June 2023, only 3% of Ohio’s population was registered through the MMCP, leaving medical dispensaries faced with oversupply, and reducing revenue for cannabis producers responsible for growing and manufacturing the products found on dispensary shelves.
Future Possibilities for an Adult-Use Market
If the bill passes, Ohio may see the emergence of new recreational dispensaries, while allowing existing medical dispensaries to become dual-licensed–offering both medical and recreational purchasing environments within a single storefront. This would allow medical patients to continue purchasing marijuana under the guidance of staff who can recommend products and dosing regimens, while also allowing recreational consumers to access a wider variety of safe, regulated cannabis products.
Recently, state official Casey Weinstein spoke out in support of the bill: “The reality is many, many Ohioans smoke marijuana or use edibles, and I’d like to regulate it…The time has come to bring it out of the shadows in some ways, and create a fully robust market here.” Echoing these sentiments, Haren reiterated the Coalition’s goal: to “let Ohioans responsibly use marijuana like people in half the country do.”
Here at OH Dispensaries, our goal is to equip all licensed residents with access to safe, regulated cannabis products. Need your medical card? Click here to start the process, or if you’re already licensed, stop by one of our locations to purchase premium-quality cannabis products with the guidance of our expert dispensary staff.