Voters in Ohio won’t get the chance to have their say on a marijuana legalization measure at the ballot this November, but there is the possibility of holding a vote on the proposal in 2023.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) initially submitted the required number of signatures from registered voters to state officials to force lawmakers to consider a measure that would permit adults 21 and older to possess, grow and purchase limited amounts of marijuana.
However, lawmakers took no action on the proposal so the cannabis reform coalition moved to try and collect more signatures to put the question to voters this November instead. Ohio’s Secretary of State is refusing to qualify the measure though, alleging the group missed the submission deadline for ballot initiatives.
CTRMLA requested the courts to grant them relief so they have more time to qualify their marijuana legalization proposal, but now they have reached a compromise with legislative leaders and the Secretary of State which means they could put the question to voters next year instead.
This means lawmakers now have extra time to move on the original request to act on their marijuana legalization proposal. Failing that, CTRMLA will once again start the signature-gathering process to qualify the measure for a 2023 vote.
“The most important thing for us was preserving an opportunity for Ohio voters to decide this issue,” said Tom Haren of CTRMLA in a press release. “We are delighted to have reached this settlement, which has preserved our initial signatures, provided the General Assembly with a second opportunity to consider the proposed statute, and established a clear path to ballot access in 2023.”
NORML state policies director Jax James criticized Ohio lawmakers for not considering the initial marijuana legalization proposal.
”It is unfortunate that voters will have to wait at least another year before being able to weigh in on this issue, but even more unfortunate that their elected officials refuse to even debate the issue — despite it being supported by the majority of Ohioans,” James said.
In the meantime, two Ohio lawmakers filed a bill that is more or less the same as the one put forward by the cannabis reform activists. However, it doesn’t appear to stand much chance of progressing through the legislature.
A previous effort to reform Ohio’s cannabis laws was rejected by voters in 2015, but the proposal faced criticism from various quarters as it would have granted exclusive cannabis cultivation rights to the funders behind the initiative.
CTRMLA tried to qualify another marijuana legalization question for the 2020 ballot but had to suspend their signature-gathering efforts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
While Ohio may not decide on legalizing cannabis statewide this year, 14 cities are holding votes on whether to decriminalize marijuana possession in their jurisdictions.
Meanwhile, voters in Maryland, Missouri, and South Dakota look set to vote on marijuana legalization measures this November.