Activists Submit Signatures for Ohio Marijuana Legalization

Activists in Ohio submitted an additional 6,500 signatures last week in support of a recreational marijuana legalization initiative after initially falling short of the number needed to qualify the proposal for the ballot.

Marijuana Legalization

Last week, supporters of a proposed ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis in Ohio submitted petitions with more than 6,500 additional signatures from voters who would like to see the proposal appear for this year's general election. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol collected and delivered the supplemental signatures on Thursday after the group's original submission last month fell just short of the threshold to trigger a vote on the proposal.

"This submission validates what we've said all along regulating marijuana is popular in Ohio," campaign spokesman Thomas Haren said in a statement to The Columbus Dispatch on August 3. "We're looking forward to giving Ohio voters a chance to make their voices heard at the ballot this fall."

Ohio Campaign Aims for November Ballot Amidst Additional Signature Drive

The coalition submitted more than 222,000 signatures to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose in early July, far more than the 124,046 needed for the initiative to qualify for the November 2023 general election ballot. However, three weeks later, LaRose revealed that the campaign had collected just over 123,000 verified signatures, adding that the signature verification and tabulation results "indicate that petitioners filed an insufficient number of valid signatures." He also noted that the campaign would have 10 days to obtain and submit the additional signatures needed to hit the goal.

Secretary of State Details Number of Additional Signatures Needed

"To submit a sufficient number of valid signatures, petitioners need an additional 679 valid signatures that are not contained in the original or prior supplementary petitions," LaRose wrote in a statement on July 25.

Campaign Confident in Making Up Signature Shortfall

After the secretary of state's announcement, the legalization campaign acknowledged the group's shortfall, saying that making the difference to reach the signature goal would be "easy."

"It looks like we came up a little short in this first phase, but now we have 10 days to find just 679 voters to sign a supplemental petition – this is going to be easy because a majority of Ohioans support our proposal to regulate and tax adult-use marijuana," Haren said in a statement to The Columbus Dispatch. "We look forward to giving Ohio voters a chance to make their voices heard this November."

Supplemental Signatures Submitted Just Before Deadline

The group set to work to gather additional signatures from voters across the state of Ohio, using social media platforms, including Reddit, to publicize signature-gathering drives. Last week, the campaign submitted 6,545 signatures, one day before the 10-day deadline. 
The supplemental petitions will now be delivered to county election boards, where signature verification will occur over eight days. LaRose will then review the results from the election boards and announce whether the campaign has received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. On Thursday, the coalition said that legalizing marijuana would benefit the community.

"It works, generates hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue every year, and ensures that consumers have an alternative to the illicit market where they can buy products that they're confident aren't laced with illicit substances," Haren said.

Overview of Proposed Adult-Use Legalization Framework

The proposed ballot initiative would legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio for adults 21 and older, who could possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. The proposal also legalizes marijuana cultivation for personal use, allowing adults to grow up to six cannabis plants. Households with more than one adult would be permitted to grow 12 plants. 

Legalization Initiative Would Benefit Community, Campaign Says

A new state agency would regulate the commercial production and sales of cannabis products named the Division of Cannabis Control, which would have the authority to "license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult-use cannabis operators, adult-use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed." Cannabis products would carry a 10% tax, which would be dedicated to administrative costs of regulation, substance misuse treatment programs, and a social equity and jobs program. Local governments with licensed recreational marijuana dispensaries would also receive a share of cannabis tax revenue. Under the proposal's social equity program, some cannabis growing and dispensary licenses would be reserved for individuals from communities that have faced disproportionate enforcement of Ohio's current marijuana laws.

"We are proposing to regulate marijuana for adult use, just like we do for alcohol," Haren said in a press release when the campaign was launched nearly two years ago. "Our proposal fixes a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of children's hands, and benefiting everyone."

Context on Existing Medical Cannabis System and Past Legalization Attempt

Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016 through a bill passed by the state legislature, leading to the opening of the state's first regulated cannabis dispensaries in 2019. In 2015, an earlier proposal to legalize adult-use cannabis was successfully added to the ballot, but the measure was defeated by more than 65% of the state's voters.

Recommended Follow-Up Reading to Provide Broader Context on Marijuana Legalization

After reading the article "Activists Submit Signatures for Ohio Cannabis Legalization," I recommend you also read the article "Tolerance Builds Over Time" to get a broader perspective. The legalization initiative article focuses on the current efforts to get a recreational marijuana legalization measure on the ballot in Ohio. However, it does not discuss the potential impacts of legalization. The "Tolerance Builds Over Time" article could provide more context around how public attitudes tend to shift to acceptance when states legalize cannabis gradually. Reading both articles together will give you a well-rounded understanding of the current legalization push in Ohio and how views on marijuana policy can change over time as legalization becomes normalized. The interplay between evolving public opinion and policy is complex, so looking at multiple perspectives is helpful. Let me know if you would like me to summarize the critical points of the "Tolerance Builds Over Time" article after you have a chance to read it.

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