On November 7, 2023, Ohio voters will decide the fate of Ballot Issue 2, a citizen-initiated proposed law that would commercialize, regulate, legalize and tax cannabis for adult use. Recent polling data suggests broad support for Issue 2. A majority vote in favor of Issue 2 would make Ohio the 24th state—and the sixth in the Midwest—to make recreational cannabis legal under state law.
If Issue 2 passes, a new chapter 3780 in the Ohio Revised Code called Adult Use Cannabis Control would take effect December 7, 2023. However, the cannabis industry expects sales in Ohio of adult use cannabis to commence in the summer of 2024.
As proposed, Issue 2 would expand the state’s legal medical cannabis infrastructure to accommodate use of cannabis in individuals age 21 and older. The Ohio Department of Commerce, which regulates the state’s medical marijuana program, would also oversee adult use cannabis through a new Division of Cannabis Control (the “Division”). The Division would have broad powers, including the power to inspect a licensed facility without prior notice, issue fines and suspend or revoke licenses.
The proposed law gives existing cultivator and dispensary licensees the opportunity to serve the adult use market, while also making 40 additional licenses available to new cultivators and 50 additional licenses available to new dispensaries.
Issue 2 lays out only the statutory framework for lawful adult use of cannabis in Ohio. The proposed law envisions the Division and other state agencies issuing regulations to implement the statutory provisions.
Examples of key components of the proposed law are as follows:
- Imposing a new 10% tax on the sale of adult use cannabis, in addition to the 6% state sales tax and taxes levied by local governments.
- Defining allowable forms of adult use cannabis to include extracts, edibles, lotions, sprays and inhalers, among other forms.
- Allowing adults to grow and cultivate 6 marijuana plants each, or up to 12 plants per household, without a license.
- Authorizing financial institutions to service licensed cannabis operators and testing laboratories in certain circumstances.
- Specifying circumstances under which employers and landlords may prohibit the adult use of cannabis.
- Establishing a social equity and jobs program to study and fund marijuana-related criminal justice reforms and prevent use of cannabis by minors.
- Creating an electronic database to track cannabis from seed to sale in real time.
Given the major implications legalization of recreational cannabis would mean for individuals and businesses in Ohio and neighboring states, all stakeholders should keep a close watch on Issue 2 on November 7th.