By Laura Hancock – cleveland.com (via TNS).
A bipartisan pair of Northeast Ohio lawmakers is sponsoring a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana, including allowing up to six cannabis plants to be grown per household.
House Bill 168, called the Adult Use Act, is awaiting its first committee hearing in the Ohio House Finance Committee.
The bill – sponsored by Reps. Jamie Callender, a Lake County Republican, and Casey Weinstein, a Hudson Democrat – is similar to a bill Callender introduced in 2021, which died in the previous two-year session of the state legislature.
The difference this time, Callender said, is that Ohioans may be voting on an initiated statute proposal in November to legalize recreational marijuana. The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol coalition is gathering signatures across the state in hopes of qualifying for the November ballot. Ohio already has a medical marijuana program.
Callender is trying to make the case to Republican legislative leadership that they need to seriously consider HB 168, which would ensure the legislature can have control over the finer details of the bill. If Ohioans legalize the initiated statute proposal, those details are be decided by the coalition, which is made up by companies in the medical marijuana program.
Under the bill:
- People aged 21 and over could purchase marijuana, taxed at 10%.
- The taxes from recreational sales would be sent to the Ohio Department of Public Safety to combat illegal drug trafficking; to K-12 education; to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to assist people suffering from chemical dependency or substance abuse; to local governments; and to the state’s General Revenue Fund.
- People can grow up to six marijuana plants per household, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants. Cultivation would have to be in an enclosed, locked place. The marijuana would have to be for personal use and not available or sale.
Read more: Coverage of recreational marijuana in Ohio
“Our bill is an expansion of the medical program,” Callender said. “All of the product would be grown, inspected and labeled the same way it is now in the medical program.”
Under current law, medical marijuana patients are not allowed to smoke the drug. However, flower is sold at dispensaries, but patients are supposed to vape it. Callender is considering adding an amendment to the bill to allow smoking.
“I’m going to try to change that,” he said. “I personally think that’s silly.”
Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens and Senate President Matt Huffman are both against adult use.
But Callender said he will press on the leaders that the initiated statute could become law if the legislature doesn’t address the issue first.
“The scrutiny you go under to get into this industry is pretty intense,” he said. “That’s why I like this better than the ballot initiative.”
Weinstein said in a prepared statement that neighboring states such as Michigan have recreational marijuana, and are drawing Ohioans to their program.
“It’s time for Ohio to act on this before we fall too much further behind our neighbors,” he said. “Adult-use is good for our economy, good for our justice system, and the right thing to do. Ohioans are ready to legalize cannabis, and I am proud to offer this bipartisan bill to get it done.”