Marijuana legalization falls short of November vote; campaign has 10 days to rectify

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

A citizen proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio came up 679 valid signatures short of getting on the November ballot, Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Tuesday. The campaign now has 10 days to rectify their petition.

Under Ohio law, the campaign needed to hit 124,046 valid signatures, representing 3% of the state’s total vote for governor in 2022. It received 123,367. The proposal did, however, meet Ohio’s county-by-county standards. It needed to gather a number of signatures representing 1.5% of a county’s total vote for governor in 44 counties; it did so in 49 counties.

Locally, the campaign met county quotas in all nine counties in the region. The campaign collected 6,939 signatures in Montgomery; 3,007 in Butler; 2,271 in Warren; 1,437 in Greene; 1,359 in Clark; 924 in Miami; 370 in Darke; 334 in Champaign; and 150 in Preble.

The citizen-initiated statute is officially organized by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a Columbus-based organization that now has 10 days to collect at least 679 valid signatures from anywhere in Ohio to meet the statewide signature quota.

“It looks like we came up a little short in this first phase, but now we have 10 days to find just 679 voters to sign a supplemental petition — this is going to be easy, because a majority of Ohioans support our proposal to regulate and tax adult use marijuana,” CRMLA spokesperson Tom Haren said in a release.

If the campaign succeeds in getting at least 679 valid signatures over the next 10 days, Ohioans will be able to approve or deny the law by a simple majority vote this November. It would be the 13th citizen-initiated statute to get on the statewide ballot since Ohio adopted the process back in 1912. Only three have ever passed.

LaRose’s declaration Tuesday marks just the latest twist in the marijuana proposal’s long fight to become law.

LaRose first submitted petitions to the Ohio General Assembly on behalf of the coalition in January 2022, triggering a four-month countdown for lawmakers to act. Republican legislative leaders didn’t, and lawmakers asserted that the group’s petitions had arrived too late for 2022 ballots.

lawsuit and settlement ensued under which the group agreed to wait until this year.

The ballot measure proposes allowing adults 21 and over to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to grow plants at home. A 10% tax would support administrative costs, addiction treatment, municipalities with dispensaries and social equity and jobs programs.

If the issue passes, Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize cannabis for adult use. The outcome of a special election Aug. 8 on whether to raise the bar for passing future constitutional amendments wouldn’t impact the marijuana question, since it was advanced through the citizen initiated statute process.

Ohio’s Legislature legalized medical marijuana in 2016, and the state’s first dispensaries opened in 2019.

A win in November would put the law in the Ohio Revised Code, but Ohio has no protections for the law after that. The legislature would be able to amend or remove the legislation altogether.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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