Ohio has become the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana with the approval of Issue 2, a landmark ballot initiative. According to projections from CNN, Issue 2 led with 55.6% of the vote and is expected to prevail once all votes have been tallied. With this success, Ohio now joins the 23 states that have already legalized cannabis for adults.
The passage of Issue 2 means that adults 21 and older in Ohio will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. They will also have the right to grow up to six cannabis plants at home. Commercial production and sales of cannabis products will be regulated by the newly established Division of Cannabis Control, while a 10% tax on these products will contribute to administrative costs, substance misuse treatment programs, and a social equity and jobs program.
The legalization of recreational marijuana in Ohio is expected to create an adult-use cannabis market worth up to $2 billion, bringing the state an estimated net public benefit of approximately $260 million per year. Municipalities with licensed dispensaries will also receive a share of the cannabis tax revenue. Furthermore, the passage of Issue 2 includes a social equity program that reserves some licenses for individuals from communities disproportionately affected by Ohio's current marijuana laws.
Representatives of the regulated cannabis industry have welcomed the news, seeing it as a significant step towards a more inclusive and regulated market. However, the Last Prisoner Project (LPP), a nonprofit working to secure the freedom of those incarcerated for cannabis offenses, noted that Issue 2 does not automatically expunge past marijuana-related criminal records. LPP called on Ohio's policymakers to enact comprehensive relief measures to address this issue.
Legalization advocates are concerned that Republican lawmakers may attempt to roll back Issue 2 despite its success. As an initiated statute, Issue 2 can be altered or repealed by the state legislature. Some lawmakers have expressed reservations about the mental health and societal consequences of legalization, but have acknowledged the need to review and potentially change certain provisions of Issue 2 rather than repealing it entirely.
The passage of Issue 2 in Ohio reflects a shifting perception of cannabis across America, highlighting the progressive shift towards cannabis legalization. Proponents of recreational marijuana argue that Ohioans can expect a boost to the state's economy, increased job opportunities, and tax revenue that can be reinvested in areas such as schools and hospitals.