Ohio voters will decide whether their state will be the next to legalize both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana this fall, thanks to a campaign that collected more than 300,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted certified the petition Wednesday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, with the vote expected to take place Nov. 3.
The campaign, led by an advocacy group called ResponsibleOhio, seeks to pass an amendment to the state constitution that would allow people 21 years or older to buy, possess and grow limited amounts of pot.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, said in a statement, as reported by the Plain Dealer. “Drug dealers don’t care about doing what’s best for our state and its citizens. By reforming marijuana laws in November, we’ll provide compassionate care to sick Ohioans, bring money back to our local communities and establish a new industry with limitless economic development opportunities.”
The language of the amendment still needs to be approved by the Ohio Ballot Board, but it would establish a commission to regulate the growth, sale and taxation of marijuana, similar to laws passed by other jurisdictions that have legalized the substance. Tax revenues would go toward local governments, cannabis research and treatment for drug abuse and addiction, according to the Plain Dealer.
Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia made it legal to use marijuana last November, two years after Colorado and Washington state did the same. Nineteen other states — not including Ohio — have passed laws that allow it to be used for medicinal purposes.
ResponsibleOhio reportedly spent more than $2.5 million to collect the signatures. The group had to collect at least 305,591 signatures to make it on the ballot, and initially fell short, the Plain Dealer reported, but it was eventually able to exceed the minimum by about 15,000 signatures.
Under the group’s plan, the marijuana industry would be heavily regulated and limited to 10 sites promised to backers of the campaign. For recreational use, individuals would be restricted to one ounce or less of marijuana. Individuals who want to grow their own marijuana for recreational use would need a license from the commission contemplated by the amendment and would be restricted from growing more than four plants and have more than eight ounces of the substance at a time.
Even if the ballot initiative is successful in November, it still faces another obstacle. State lawmakers who oppose ResponsibleOhio’s plan have already put another initiative on the November ballot that targets the plan’s limit of 10 sites to grow commercial marijuana in the state. The competing initiative “would prohibit language granting ‘a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel’ in the Ohio Constitution,” the Plain Dealer reported.
If both initiatives pass in November, the Ohio’s secretary of state and attorneys for the lawmakers who oppose the marijuana initiative believe the anti-monopoly initiative will trump the pot plan, the newspaper also reported.
The Ohio ballot initiative is seen as an important test for the marijuana legalization movement, as the state is often seen as a political bellwether for the rest of the country. An April 2015 poll from Quinnipiac University found that a majority of voters in the state — at 52 percent — support allowing adults to possess and use the drug for recreation. A much larger majority — 84 percent — support legalization for medical use.
If the ballot initiative is successful and marijuana is legalized in Ohio, the state will become the most populous state in the nation so far to legalize the substance, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.