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What is Ohio Issue 2 on marijuana legalization?

Ideastream Public Media has teamed up with WEWS television for a forum on Issue 2, which would legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio. Statehouse News Bureau Chief Karen Kasler and WEWS reporter Jonathan Walsh will lead an online discussion with supporters and opponents of Issue 2. Watch it live at 6 p.m.

Voters in November's general election will be asked to decide on Ohio Issue 2, or the Marijuana Legalization Initiative. If voters say yes, Ohio could become the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana.

What is Issue 2?

Passage of the citizen-initiated statute could legalize and regulate recreational marijuana within the state. This includes cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, possession and home growth of marijuana for adults age 21 or above, according to the ballot language.

Adults could possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates, as well as grow up to six marijuana plants at home. Households would be allowed to cultivate up to 12 plants collectively, the ballot states.

An initiated statute requires a petition signed by 1,000 registered Ohio voters, according to the Ohio secretary of state's website. The petition is submitted to the attorney general followed by the Ohio Ballot Board for review. After the board has certified the petition, a verified copy of the proposed law is filed with the secretary of state.

Since Issue 2 is an initiated statute that would create a law under Ohio Revised Code, state legislators still get the final say on its scope. This means legislators could still propose and pass modifications to the law, even if voters approve it Nov. 7.

"It's long and involved and has a lot of regulatory detail in it that's not the kind of thing that you put into a constitutional right," said Abigail Moncrieff, an associate professor at Cleveland State University College of Law. "It's the kind of thing that you build as a statutory program, and then things might arise under it — the details and administration that require fixes. Then you might want to have a capacity to amend it more easily than a constitutional amendment to change the details of how it's being administered."

Marijuana sales would be taxed at 10% on top of state and local taxes, according to the ballot language, which also says the additional cannabis tax would be used for:

  • Social equity and jobs programs (36%)
  • Funding for dispensary host communities (36%)
  • Addiction treatment and education (25%)
  • Regulatory and administrative costs (3%)

A study by Ohio State University's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center estimated the potential annual tax revenue could range "from $276 million in year five of an operational cannabis market to $403 million in year five of operations."

Moncrieff noted that the Controlled Substances Act, a statute establishing a federal policy to regulate the manufacturing, distributing, importing/exporting, and use of regulated substances, still remains at the federal level. That means marijuana remains a schedule 1 substance under the Act, even in states where it is legal.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, "the FDA and DEA have concluded that marijuana has no federally approved medical use for treatment in the U.S. and thus it remains as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law." Schedule I drugs are defined as "drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," according to the DEA.

"Any time a president comes into the office, who wants to enforce it, it's still enforceable," Moncrieff explained. "So we can vote to legalize recreational marijuana. It will likely have profound on-ground consequences for the availability of recreational marijuana in the state. But anybody interested in using marijuana should be aware that if DEA personnel show up at their door, they are in fact committing a crime."

Who would regulate marijuana sales and compliance?

Passage of the initiative would include the creation of the Division of Cannabis Control within the Ohio Department of Commerce, which would be responsible for regulating and licensing marijuana operators and facilities, the ballot language states. It would also oversee the compliance and standardization of marijuana businesses and production in Ohio.

Who could grow and sell marijuana?

Cultivators and dispensaries that already produce and sell medical marijuana would have the opportunity to expand their capacities, according to the ballot measure. Licensed dispensaries will be issued recreational licenses for current locations.

"Dispensaries and cultivators can just convert fairly seamlessly into recreational dispensaries/cultivators under the statute," Moncrieff said. "They just have to follow the various processes for getting licensed."

According to the ballot measure, level one, or larger cultivators, would have the opportunity to expand with licenses for three dispensaries, while smaller level two cultivators could receive one additional license.

Level one cultivators are permitted to operate an initial marijuana cultivation area up to 25,000 square feet. Level two cultivators are permitted to operate an initial marijuana cultivation area of 3,000 square feet, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

Home growers aged 21 and older could grow up to six marijuana plants at home or up to 12 collective plants per household, per the ballot language.

What does Issue 2 mean for workers?

Passage of Issue 2 would not guarantee individual rights to use marijuana, meaning employers could still enforce drug testing and drug-free workplace policies.

This means that employees are still subject to their employer's policies on marijuana use.

"We also have to remember that marijuana remains illegal as a matter of federal law," Moncrieff said. "So if an employer wants to prohibit you from using marijuana, they have a pretty strong legal basis for doing so."

Who supports Issue 2?

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is the PAC leading the campaign in favor of Issue 2. According to the coalition's website, it's "an effort to encourage Ohio legislators to regulate marijuana for adult-use, just like we do for alcohol."

According to Ohio PAC finance records, the coalition's top donors include Marijuana Policy Project, Cresco Labs Ohio and Pure Ohio Wellness.

"Our proposal fixes a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and benefiting everyone,” CRMLA spokesman Tom Haren said in a 2021 media release.

Who opposes Issue 2?

Protect Ohio Workers and Families is the coalition leading the campaign against Issue 2. It's backed by organizations including Smart Approach to Marijuana Action, the Ohio Manufacturers' Association, the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and more.

Gov. Mike DeWine has also voiced opposition to the initiative, saying, "It would be a mistake. And it would be a mistake for a number of reasons." He also argued that legalizing marijuana would send the wrong message to children, and could pose a danger to them, the Statehouse News Bureau reported.

How soon would changes take effect?

If passed, the law will become effective 30 days after the election.

What will Issue 2 look like on the ballot?

The ballot language for Issue 2 will include arguments for and against the proposed statute.

Here's what the ballot will look like:

Learn more about Issue 2

Who can grow and sell marijuana if Issue 2 passes?
Issues 1 and 2 expected to draw higher voter turnout in off-year election

November General Election dates

Registration deadline: Oct. 10
Military and overseas absentee voting: Sept. 22 - Nov. 6
Early in-person voting: Oct. 11 - Nov. 5
Vote-by-mail: Oct. 11 - Nov. 6 (Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 6.)
Election Day: Nov. 7, 6:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.

How to vote

The deadline to register to vote in the November General Election was Oct. 10. Update your registration information and check your registration status on the Ohio secretary of state's website.

Election Day is Nov. 7. Before you head to the polls, see a sample ballot to prepare your voting plan.

You can find your polling location on this clickable map of Ohio's counties. Clicking your county will take you to your county's board of elections website, where you can enter your mailing address to find your polling location's address.

Stephanie Metzger-Lawrence is a digital producer for the engaged journalism team at Ideastream Public Media.