Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called on state legislators to amend and whittle down the provisions of Issue 2, the law voters in the state just approved, before the bill takes effect on Dec. 7. And since Issue 2 is a citizen initiative, Ohio lawmakers could lawfully make changes to the law, but they only have about a month to do so.
Ohio Capital Journal reports that less than two days after voters approved adult-use cannabis in Ohio, the governor wants to scale it back.
“My recommendation to the General Assembly is that they take action to make sure that both rights are protected,” DeWine said Thursday. “People have a right to smoke it. People have a right to consume it. But also that everybody else’s who doesn’t choose to do so is also protected with their rights as well.”
DeWine is “already plotting to change Ohio’s legal weed law,” Benzinga reports.
The people who fought hard to campaign for Issue 2 are ready for a battle. “I can’t believe in 2023 we’re actually talking about elected officials not respecting the will of the voters and not respecting the outcome of an election,” Tom Haren, spokesperson for the Coalition To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which led Issue 2, told the Columbus Dispatch.
The governor claims he’s not ignoring the will of his constituents. “We respect what the people have done,” DeWine said, suggesting that he’s not in fact going against the will of Ohio voters. “What the people have clearly told us is they want legal marijuana in Ohio. We are going to see that they have that. We’re also going to live up to our responsibility to all the people in the state of Ohio, whether they voted for it or voted against it. In doing so, he wants to make sure various protections are in place, starting with Ohio’s children.”
The people in Ohio have already decided. Nov. 7, voters in Ohio approved a ballot proposal, Issue 2, to legalize adult-use cannabis, beating out voters in opposition to the measure. The election’s outcome makes Ohio the 24th state to allow adult-cannabis, 14 of which have done so via a public vote.
Per the new legislation, adults ages 21 and up can legally buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and grow plants at home—up to six plants per person and 12 plants per residence, where at least two adults reside. A 10% tax will be imposed on cannabis purchases and will go toward administrative costs, addiction treatment, municipalities with dispensaries, and social equity and jobs programs.
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, who also voiced opposition to the bill, said lawmakers could clarify language “regarding limits for THC and tax rates as well as other parts of the statute.”
Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) agreed. “Now is the time for the legislature to lead on how best to allocate tax revenues while responsibly regulating the industry,” Stephens said in a statement.
A similar scaled-back cannabis law took place in Utah in 2019. House Bill 3001, which lawmakers passed in a legislative special session, was installed by the Republican-dominated Utah Legislature in response to the voter-approved Proposition 2, which Utah voters approved in November 2018.
HB 3001 was supposedly a “compromise bill.” But critics of the bill say that H.B. 3001 actually functions as a replacement to Proposition 2. Organizations and people such as Rocky Anderson sued the state for attempting to undo the will of voters. Could the same happen in Ohio?
Protect the Children
“One goal will be to make sure that they are protected from advertising in regard to marijuana,” DeWine said. “We want to do everything within our power to reduce the number of inadvertent consumption of gummy bears, cookies and other products that have marijuana.”
Fueling the myth that adults are passing out edibles to trick-or-treaters, an actual incident re-sparked fears that cannabis is a threat to children.
In 2022, a 10-year-old student at Upper Arlington elementary school brought her dad’s infused gummies to school and shared with them with fellow students at lunch. After eating the gummies, the students became sick and were all taken to a local hospital for treatment.
“We have every responsibility to do everything we can to keep those [emergency room visits] numbers down as much as we can,” DeWine said.
DeWine also wants to reduce the number of drivers who smoke cannabis. Opposition group Protect Ohio Workers and Families claim that if Ohio legalizes pot, it would be subject to an additional 48 fatal vehicle crashes and 2,298 more injury crashes per year if Issue 2 passed.
“I would hope … that when Dec. 7 comes and goes that we will be able to inform the people of the state exactly how this program will roll out,” he said. “I think it would be good if that was all done by the 7th so that we’re not in a situation of taking something away from people.”