Ohio’s governor says the state’s current marijuana law—under which it is now legal for adults to grow, possess and consume but with no place to purchase regulated cannabis—has created a “goofy situation” and “real mess” in light of the fact that retailers aren’t expected to open for business until at least the end of this year.
“It’s legal to consume marijuana. It’s legal to grow marijuana. But you can’t buy the seeds and you can’t buy the marijuana,” Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said Thursday in a media interview. “All this is doing is fostering a bigger black market, because people think they can buy it legally, and you’re seeing advertising that is being done.”
DeWine proposed allowing the state’s existing medical dispensaries to begin selling marijuana to all adults, not just registered medical patients—a change that would need to be made by state lawmakers.
“Give us the authority to start selling marijuana in the state of Ohio, and the way that we would have to do it, to start with at least, is to do the medical dispensaries,” he said. “We could do that and probably turn that on within about 60 days after the legislature passes an initiative.”
DeWine himself campaigned against the legalization ballot measure that voters approved last year, though he acknowledged it “passed with a good margin—57 percent of the vote.” Going forward, he said, “we should be able to have what the people asked for, and I think what the people asked for is to be able to buy marijuana where it is regulated.”
DeWine also pointed to “other issues that probably have to be resolved” around cannabis legalization, including how state tax revenue will be spent.
“We just need the House and the Senate to get back together to start talking about this, and let’s get a bill that we can move forward on,” he added.
The governor said he supports a plan passed last month by Senate lawmakers that would allow sales to begin “immediately” through medical dispensaries, though even if that plan proceeds, it will likely take months before sales begin.
Cannabis advocates have pushed back against some other provisions of the Senate plan, which would also decrease the household cap for home-grown marijuana, impose new THC limits, restrict public consumption and reallocate tax revenue, among other changes to the voter-passed law.
A separate House bill is considered more palatable to reformers, as it would 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.
DeWine previously voiced support for the idea of moving marijuana tax dollars to law enforcement—a policy change opposed by advocates who want to maintain funding for social equity initiatives as prescribed under the ballot initiative voters approved.
At Friday’s press event, DeWine also discussed delta-8 THC products, which use cannabinoids derived by hemp and are unregulated at the federal level and in most states. On that issue, too, he urged legislative action.
“The legislature can separate this, in a bill, from the marijuana, or they can put it in the same bill,” the governor said. “I don’t really care. That’s up to the legislature. But this is nasty stuff, and it’s being marketed to kids.”
“I’m asking the legislature to take action on that,” he said, “and to take action quickly.”
DeWine governor held a press conference a day earlier calling for a state ban or other restrictions on delta-8 products.
His comments come on the heels of a separate interview earlier this month in which he pushed lawmakers to allow marijuana sales “very quickly” and to ban or limit hemp-derived cannabinoid products.
With respect to the broader legalization implementation debate, some Democratic lawmakers have indicated that they may be amenable to certain revisions, such as putting certain cannabis tax revenue toward K–12 education. But other supporters of the voter-passed legalization initiative are firmly against letting legislators undermine the will of the majority that approved it.
—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.—
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.
Rep. Gary Click (R) filed legislation in late November 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 month 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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