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Ohio Senate may make first move on package of marijuana modifications

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said Tuesday the chamber is on board with Gov. Mike DeWine’s pitch to modify the recreational marijuana initiated statute quickly, prior to the first provisions taking effect Dec. 7.

Senators are planning to put forward a package of policy changes, Huffman said, although he didn’t give details on the exact proposals or a timeline for it—just that it would be on one quicker than standard legislation. Few scheduled committee and full sessions remain before the effective date.

“As this ramps up, it would be better for people going forward to know what the law is than people begin spending money or taking actions and then the law changes six months from now,” Huffman said Tuesday.

Ohio voters passed Issue 2 by a 14-point margin last Tuesday. It legalizes and sets regulation guidelines for Ohioans to grow, cultivate, sell, buy, and consume marijuana if they are 21 or older.

Altering the tax rates and revenue distribution for the eventual recreational marijuana program, as well as regulating public use of products, are potential changes to the language voters ratified that Huffman flagged.

“Obviously people have a lot of suggestions when there's a new channel of money,” he said.

But Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said she believes Democrats are relevant to that conversation, and she believes they can find some common ground.

“I have a feeling that there are some things that we can agree on. We just have to look at it and have further discussion,” Antonio said.

For one, both Huffman and Antonio mentioned the possibility of putting some revenue toward the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) fund for law enforcement.

Huffman has also floated limiting THC content, or the potency of products.

The senate leaders’ comments Tuesday morning came as their Ohio House equivalents have signaled less urgency to take action on Issue 2, at least before early December.

“I'd much rather us have thoughtful policy, if we're going to put some of those guardrails around, rather than do something quick for the sake of doing it,” House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said Tuesday afternoon.

The Ohio Department of Commerce—which is set to oversee the state’s new recreational program—has nine months after Dec. 7 to begin issuing licenses, meaning the state won’t be all-out legal for some time.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.