Recreational marijuana backers start a campaign to bring a proposal to Ohio’s fall ballot

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — A proposed law to legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol in Ohio could be on the ballot this fall. State legislators declined an opportunity to pass that law and backers of recreational cannabis now move into the second phase of the initiated statute process.

Marijuana plants at Hepworth Farms in Milton, N.Y.
Marijuana plants at Hepworth Farms in Milton, N.Y. Sixteen percent of Americans say they smoke marijuana, with 48% saying they have tried it at some point in their lives. [Mary Altaffer | AP]
State lawmakers had four months to act on a proposed law to allow for Ohioans over 21 to buy and use recreational marijuana. That deadline went by on Thursday.

So Tom Haren of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol says it’s hiring paid petition circulators to gather 124,046 signatures by July 5 to make this November’s ballot.

“We’d hoped that the legislature would have engaged with us on this topic, but we suspected that they might not,” said Haren. “So we’ve been ready to start our signature gathering process, and I am supremely confident we will be able to make the July 5 deadline.”

This is a proposed law and not a constitutional amendment.

Laws, even those passed by voters, can be changed or repealed by state legislators. Constitutional amendments can only be altered or nullified by a superseding amendment approved by voters.

Because it’s a proposed law and not a constitutional amendment, it wouldn’t be affected by the amendment Republican lawmakers want on an August special election ballot, which would require 60% voter approval for future amendments. That proposal to make it harder to amend the constitution is aimed at the reproductive rights amendment expected to be before voters on that same ballot this fall.

Some Republicans have been outspoken on their opposition to legalized marijuana for anyone who wants it, including Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima). He said in November that recreational marijuana was among “things that I’m against that I won’t allow to come to the Senate floor in my position as president.”

But Haren said he doesn’t think anti-marijuana lawmakers will try to repeal it if voters approve it.

“We think our proposal is going to pass with such clear margins that the legislature will recognize that this will be a mandate from Ohio voters, that this is good policy for Ohioans,” said Haren.

The proposed law would regulate the cultivation, manufacturing and testing of marijuana and impose a 10% tax. It would also allow up to 6 homegrown plants per person and 12 per residence.