For the first time in the history of Ohio’s legislature, state lawmakers filed a bill to legalize possession, cultivation and sales of cannabis.

Reps. Casey Weinstein (D) and Terrence Upchurch (D) introduced the legislation several weeks after emailing colleagues to garner support for the proposed reform.

Weinstein and Upchurch’s 180 page bill would permit adults 21 and older to possess up to five ounces of cannabis and grow up to 12 plants at home for personal use. The measure also contains provisions that would expunge prior marijuana-related convictions, including possession and cultivation, that would be legal under the rule change.

“It’s time to lead Ohio forward,” Weinstein said. “This is a big step for criminal justice reform, for our veterans, for economic opportunity, and for our individual liberties.”

Local jurisdictions would be able to limit and restrict the number and types of marijuana businesses operating in their area, or continue with an outright prohibition on commercial cannabis activity. Adult-use marijuana sales would face a 10 percent excise tax, which would initially be used to pay for the cost of implementing Ohio’s regulated marijuana market. Once this is covered, what remains would be divided among municipalities and counties with a minimum of one cannabis retailer (15 percent each), K-12 education (35 percent) and infrastructure projects (35 percent). The bill further stipulates that the state Department of Commerce would regulate the industry and be charged with issuing marijuana business licenses.

“This bill is much needed in Ohio, and it’s time for Ohio to become a national leader in marijuana decriminalization and legalization,” Upchurch said. “This bill is more than just about legalization, it’s about economic and workforce development, it’s about decriminalization, and it’s about healthcare! The time is now, and I look forward to getting this done in a bipartisan fashion.”

Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is unlikely to be receptive to the measure given his past stance on the issue of marijuana legalization. But it’s not just lawmakers pushing for the reform. Marijuana reform activists in Ohio have come together to form a new organization – the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) – which is currently gathering signatures in the hope of putting a cannabis legalization question to voters on the state’s 2022 ballot. Ohio activists wanted to put such a measure on the state’s 2020 ballot but COVID-19 restrictions meant they were unable to collect signatures in person. The group then sought an injunction to allow them to gather signatures electronically but this was rejected by the courts.

If local initiatives on cannabis reform in Ohio are anything to go by, then such a measure would stand a good chance of passing. In the past few years, 22 jurisdictions in the state have adopted local ordinances to reduce marijuana possession penalties to a misdemeanor no longer punishable by jail time, with dozens of other towns set to follow suit.

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