Get ready for yet another battle to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio. Voters across the country turned down a legalization measure in 2015, and now the issue is back with two new proposals.
The group “Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” is working on a petition to introduce the issue to voters. It comes just as two Cleveland state lawmakers tabled a bill to legalize recreational pot, tax, and regulate the industry to allow for small-scale sales and home-growing.
Bill co-sponsored Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, told WHIO-TV that they had adopted the best of the legislation currently in place in other places like Washington state. He pointed out the financial benefits of legalization.
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“Hundreds of millions of dollars, in Washington $ 1.1 billion, are going back to communities that run pharmacies. For K-12 schools and veteran programs. So there are many facets of good news and prospects, ”said Weinstein.
The measure has an aspect of social justice, said the other co-sponsor, Rep. Terrence Upchurch, D-Cleveland. He said decriminalizing marijuana for personal use would make sense.
“There are people in my district right now, I represent one of the poorest districts, mostly African American, who can’t get student loans, don’t get jobs, and these low convictions are 30 years old. There are beliefs that prevent them from returning to society and being productive citizens, ”Upchurch said.
The Ohio Attorney General recently approved the petition language for the statewide petition drive. While the signature-gathering process for the ballot issue is just getting underway and Legalization Act HB 382 awaits a hearing at Ohio House, critics are already organizing to combat both measures.
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Fran Gerbig is the Executive Director of the Prevention Action Alliance, a statewide anti-drug organization that tracks the progress of both cannabis legalization efforts. She calls both suggestions very bad ideas.
“It’s not in the public’s interest to legalize a substance that we know has so many dangers. We know the risks for young people, for the developing brain, for public safety risks, accidental poisoning and increased accidents due to driving disorders, ”said Gerbig.
Although Ohio, like some other states, has opposed demands to legalize recreational marijuana, it has heavily regulated the sale of medical marijuana. A recent report from the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program said sales have been $ 523.3 million nationwide since medical cannabis dispensaries opened in 2019
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