Republican lawmakers in Ohio filed a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis in the state, while marijuana reform activists are closing in on the required number of signatures to qualify a legalization measure for next year’s ballot.

Reps. Jamie Callender and Ron Ferguson are the sponsors of the Ohio Adult Use Act, which would permit adults 21 and older to possess and buy up to 50 grams of marijuana, as well as grow six plants for personal use. Under the duo’s proposal, gifting up to 25 grams between adults without remuneration would also be allowed.

Adult-use marijuana sales would be taxed at 10 percent, and these revenues would initially be used to cover the implementation costs of a legal cannabis market in Ohio. Once that’s settled, 50 percent of sales tax funds would go to the state’s coffers and what remains would be split evenly between efforts to stem illicit drug trafficking and fund substance misuse treatment programs.

Ohio’s Department of Commerce would regulate the legal marijuana industry, including the state’s existing medical cannabis program, and it would issue licenses for cannabis businesses through a newly-created Division of Marijuana Control.

Up until January 1, 2027, the Division of Marijuana Control would issue a maximum of one retail dispensary license per 60,000 inhabitants. Then the Department of Commerce would be committed to reviewing the situation at least every six months to determine if more licenses are required.

Callender and Ferguson’s bill contains little in the way of social equity provisions. It has nothing to say on expungements for prior cannabis convictions, nor giving priority to communities and individuals most harmed by prohibition to establish marijuana businesses.

The one social equity provision included in the Ohio Adult Use Act would compel regulators to carry out research in advance of issuing adult-use business licenses “to determine whether there has been prior discrimination in the issuance of marijuana-related licenses in this state, including whether the effects of marijuana prohibition have contributed to a lack of participation by racial or ethnic minorities in the medical marijuana industry in this state.”

If regulators find evidence of discrimination then it “shall take necessary and appropriate actions to address and remedy any identified discrimination when issuing licenses.”

Another move that’s out of step with many marijuana legalization efforts in other states would allow employers to continue enforcing zero-tolerance marijuana policies for out-of-work use.

Callender and Ferguson’s proposal is the second marijuana legalization bill to be submitted to the Ohio legislature this session.

Reps. Casey Weinstein (D) and Terrence Upchurch (D) filed the first marijuana legalization bill in Ohio’s legislative history earlier this session, which included provisions to expunge past cannabis convictions.

Surprisingly, a recent survey of Ohio lawmakers found more Republicans are in favor of legal marijuana than their Democratic colleagues. Still, Gov. Mike DeWine is no fan of the reform and House Speaker Robert Cupp has also not been particularly receptive either.

Meanwhile, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is inching towards the required number of signatures to qualify their legalization proposal for Ohio’s 2022 ballot. The group’s measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, 15 grams of concentrates, and grow up to six plants for personal use at a maximum of 12 per household.

If successful, Ohio lawmakers could then either adopt the measure, reject it, or amend it within four months. If lawmakers choose to reject it or amend it in a way that’s not acceptable to the group, then it would have to collect an additional 132,887 signatures in order to get the measure onto the 2022 ballot.

About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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