Ohio’s Issue 2 was approved on the November ballot with nearly 2.2 million Ohioans (57%) voting in favor of legalizing marijuana by enacting Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 3780, a law to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana. With a regulating scheme similar to Ohio’s alcohol sales legislation, the new law makes Ohio the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
Ohio is not expected to see dispensaries and marijuana delivery services come on line soon, however the law does not exonerate those previously convicted and incarcerated for possession of the substance. Here are some of the highlights of the new law for individuals, the marijuana industry and the involved communities.
Interpreting the law
With the passage of the law, adult Ohioans, 21 years or older, can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana (or 15 grams of THC concentrate) and can also legally grow up to six plants at home, with no more than a total of 12 plants per household.
However there are no employment safeguards for marijuana users in the new law as nothing in the ORC prohibits employers from “refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against an individual” for their use, possession or distribution of cannabis.
For the Industry
For the industry, the newly enacted law contains regulations for the cultivation (growth, harvesting, packaging and transporting) and distribution of marijuana.
In 2024, dispensaries (authorized to sell adult-use cannabis products) and cultivators can expect to receive licenses. Depending on the permit levels (the legislative scheme has three types of dispensaries, I, II and II), entities can utilize up to 25,0000 square feet of growing space and operate up to three dispensary locations.
For the Community
The new marijuana legislation includes a tax of 10%, with tax dollars raised being earmarked for use for social equity and jobs programs (36%), dispensary host communities (36%), addiction treatment and education (25%) and administrative costs (3%).
The social equity and jobs programs seek to empower those in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement to get involved with the industry. Many states that have already legalized or decriminalized cannabis have forms of this program and Ohio will look to utilize additional tax revenue to provide economic opportunity for socially disadvantaged communities.
Communities which host dispensaries will receive a large portion (36%) of the 10% tax, with the revenue supporting approved programs, including funds for education, infrastructure, social programs, addiction services and more.
Because Issue 2 was a voter-initiated ballot measure (requiring a petition signed by 1,000 registered voters), state legislators have the final say concerning the law’s scope. Despite passage with 57% of the vote, the legislation’s fate is in question as some lawmakers and politicians firmly oppose legalizing marijuana in the State of Ohio, claiming potential issues such as increased impaired driving and decreased productivity. Time will tell how the law will be shaped by state legislators, but the voters have spoken with a significant majority and the will of the people will be a major consideration.
Learn more about Issue 2 here: ohiosos.gov/globalassets/elections/2023/gen/issuesreport.pdf