Ohio GOP Governor Pushes Lawmakers To Fix ‘Ridiculous’ Marijuana Sales Delay And Send Tax Revenue To Police

The governor of Ohio is pushing lawmakers to take action as soon as possible to address the “ridiculous situation” the state has found itself in, where marijuana is now legal to possess and use but without any place for consumers to purchase regulated products from.

Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said that the Senate passed a “good bill” to make various changes to the legalization law that voters approved at the ballot last month, but the House didn’t act before lawmakers adjourned for the year. He said he’s spoken with House Speaker Jason Stephens (R), who assured him that the chamber would work to “fix these problems” when they return.

While DeWine opposed the legalization initiative that voters overwhelmingly approved, he said “what’s important is we go forward,” starting with enacting reforms to provide legal access to cannabis sooner than later. The Senate bill, for example, would allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to begin sales to adult consumers within 90 days of enactment, rather than licensing retailers in nine months under the current timeline.

“I don’t think anybody who voted for [legalization] thought that we would have a situation like we do today,” the governor said, adding that he doesn’t want Ohio to experience the same issues that New York has faced throughout its protracted legalization rollout, with illicit retailers proliferating.

“The legislature needs to take action now so that we could actually start selling it in Ohio legally and control how it is being sold—and so that the person who’s buying it knows exactly what in fact they’re they’re getting,” DeWine told WSYX in an end-of-year interview that aired on Thursday.

He also wants lawmakers to tackle what he described as a “loophole” in the state’s current law by restricting the sale of intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC.

The governor was also asked about a separate proposal that’s been floated by lawmakers to redirect marijuana tax revenue toward law enforcement training, which is also a policy change that would be implemented under the Senate-passed bill. Under the voter-approved initiative, in contrast, significant funds would go to equity and job placement.

DeWine said he “very much” supports the plan to redirect the funds, stating that “this is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as much as I was against passing this.”

“We need to take this money and do something very positive with it,” he said. “A logical place to invest this money, or at least part of this money, is in good police training.”

Advocates are more skeptical of the proposal, which was also discussed in a series of hearings in the House Finance Committee as lawmakers considered a separate package to amend the state’s marijuana law. Activists have expressed frustration with the idea of putting more dollars toward police when one of the key objectives of legalization is to divorce marijuana and law enforcement.

The bills that advanced in the GOP-controlled legislature earlier this month have varied in several respects. The Senate plan would expedite sales, but it would also decrease the household cap for home-grown marijuana, impose new THC limits, restrict public consumption, reallocate tax revenue and more.

A separate House bill from Rep. Jamie Callender (R) is generally considered more palatable to reform supporters, as it’d make less sweeping changes to what voters approved. However, it would ban sharing marijuana between adults, add a cultivator tax and similarly make several changes to the tax revenue distribution.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.—

While some Democratic lawmakers have indicated that they may be amenable to certain revisions, such as putting certain cannabis tax revenue toward K-12 education, other supporters of the voter-passed legalization initiative are firmly against letting legislators undermine the will of the majority that approved it.

Ohio Rep. Juanita Brent (D) has emphasized that people who’ve been criminalized over marijuana, as well as those with industry experience, should be involved in any efforts to amend the state’s voter-approved legalization law, arguing that it shouldn’t be left up to “anti-cannabis” legislators alone to revise the statute.

Meanwhile, Rep. Gary Click (R) filed legislation late last month that would allow individual municipalities to locally ban the use and home cultivation of cannabis in their jurisdictions and also revise how state marijuana tax revenue would be distributed by, for example, reducing funds allocated to social equity and jobs programs and instead steering them toward law enforcement training.

Following voter approval of legalization, the Ohio Department of Commerce was quick to publish an FAQ guide for residents to learn about the new law and timeline for implementation, though regulators repeatedly noted that the policies may be subject to change depending on how the legislature acts.

The commerce department also announced last week that the state’s top alcohol regulator, who previously worked as a prosecutor, would be heading up the new Ohio marijuana regulatory division.

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