In November, Ohio became the 24th state to legalize adult-use cannabis, but Republican lawmakers immediately began laying out plans to overhaul the initiative and thwart the will of the voters.
Issue 2, the citizen-initiated bill to legalize, regulate and tax adult-use cannabis, was approved by 57% of voters in the November 7 election. The bill allows adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and grow six plants at home, while establishing a retail sales tax of 10% on cannabis products and developing the basic framework for a social equity program, among other regulatory aspects. The bill’s passage means about 52.6% of the U.S. population lives in a state where cannabis has been legalized.
However, within two days of the election, Governor Mike DeWine (R) took aim at the legalization initiative and requested legislators make changes before the bill goes into effect on December 7.
“We respect what the people have done,” DeWine told reporters on November 9. “What the people have clearly told us is they want legal marijuana in Ohio. We are going to see that they have that. We’re also going to live up to our responsibility to all the people in the state of Ohio, whether they voted for it or voted against it.”
Other Republican officials also voiced their concerns and plans to upend Issue 2, as well as Issue 1, which enshrined the right to abortion in the state’s constitution. Issue 1 passed with 56.6% of the vote.
Meanwhile, cannabis activists and businesses lauded Ohio for legalizing marijuana and taking the first steps in shifting the Buckeye State from a medical-only market to a recreational one.
“This is a great day for Ohio, which now joins the growing number of conservative-leaning states that have ended the injustice of cannabis prohibition,” Marijuana Policy Project executive director Matthew Schweich said in a press release.
“Cannabis legalization is an issue that unites Democrats, Republicans and Independents,” NORML deputy director Paul Armentano said. “Ohioans have seen similar legalization laws adopted in neighboring states and they know that regulating the cannabis market is preferable to the failed policy of prohibition. It is imperative that elected officials respect the voters’ decision and implement this measure in a manner that is consistent with the sentiments of the majority of the electorate.”
With nearly 12 million residents, Ohio could become one of the largest cannabis markets in the country, barring overly burdensome regulations. Plus, Ohio is bordered by two states where cannabis remains illegal (Indiana and Kentucky) and two states that only allow medical use (Pennsylvania and West Virginia).
BDSA projects the Ohio market will reach $820 million in 2025 and $1.65 billion in 2027. The state saw 26% sales growth in 2022 and is on track to reach $520 million in medical cannabis sales by the end of this year, according to the cannabis-focused analytics firm.
Issue 2 supporters included ACLU of Ohio, Battle Green Holdings, Cresco Labs Ohio, Curaleaf, Marijuana Policy Project and The Firelands Company.
Opponents included at least 29 elected state officials — all Republicans — as well as three law enforcement associations and the Ohio Farm Bureau.