A Republican state lawmaker in Ohio has introduced a bill to partially gut the voter-approved ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in the midwestern state earlier this month, setting the stage for a possible legislative battle over the future shape of the state’s cannabis trade.
Because Issue 2 – the marijuana ballot measure which won on Nov. 7 with 57% of the vote – changes state statute but not the state constitution, lawmakers can make changes at will instead of being forced to follow the language of the initiative.
Enter House Bill 341 from state Rep. Gary Click of Vickery, which would allow Ohio municipal and county governments to ban or limit the number marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions, enact additional taxes to those at the state level (which already includes the state sales tax plus another 10% cannabis tax), and prohibit home cannabis cultivation. Those are all contrary to provisions that were included in Issue 2, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The bill also changes the distribution of cannabis tax revenues to the state, including shrinking the amount dedicated to a social equity program to 19.4% of gross tax receipts from the 36% prescribed by Issue 2, Fox 19 reported.
“This is a discussion starter rather than the binary choice that was on the ballot,” Click told The Enquirer. “It starts the conversation. Obviously, people want recreational marijuana. But they didn’t get to dialogue in details. This is the opportunity for citizens to express their voices in the committee process. I am open to amendments that reflect the will of the people.”
State Senate President Matt Huffman, a Republican from Lima, also questioned whether the state should have a social equity program that awards business permits to those with criminal marijuana records, WKYC reported.
“Did the voters, for example, know that there was going to be preferences to licenses to people who have been formally convicted for selling drugs illegally?” Huffman said during a recent podcast. “Probably not very many people thought of that.”
There’s a rush for lawmakers to act, since Issue 2 is set to go into effect on Dec. 7, and Ohio Republicans will need to reach some sort of consensus on whether to unite behind Click’s bill or another measure to alter Issue 2.
Additional changes have been floated by various GOP officials including Gov. Mike DeWine, who opposed Issue 2’s passage, such as altering the potency caps of 35% for flower and 90% for concentrates suggested by the ballot measure.
Local control in particular has been a flashpoint in other states that have legalized marijuana. While it’s been a common characteristic of ballot measures to grant local control over permitting and taxes, such a move has also backfired in places like California, where roughly two-thirds of municipal and county governments have kept cannabis commerce totally prohibited.
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