First Recreational Marijuana Bill Introduced in Ohio

Two Democratic lawmakers in Ohio introduced a historic bill to legalize cannabis in the state.

A pair of Buckeye State lawmakers are ready to put the “high” in Ohio. 

On Thursday, two Democratic state House representatives there—Casey Weinstein and Terrence Upchurch—introduced legislation to legalize and regulate the cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana in the state.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the bill is historic, as it is “the first proposed [bill] in Ohio to set up a regulated market for selling marijuana,” the newspaper reported.

“We’re seeing there are dramatic economic benefits, there are medical benefits and there’s a strong criminal justice avenue here so we can focus law enforcement on violent crime,” Weinstein told the Enquirer. “Ohio is at the point where we’re going to be behind if we don’t act now. I hope this provides the spark that we need to elevate the conversation and get this legislation moving.”

Weinstein took to Twitter on Thursday to promote the bill.

“Excited to work with my friend and colleague [Terrence Upchurch] as we lead Ohio forward on this next big step for criminal justice reform, for our veterans, for economic opportunity and for our individual liberties,” Weinstein tweeted. “It’s time. Let’s go!”

Upchurch echoed the excitement in a reply: “Honored to be your joint sponsor bro. Let’s do this!”

The two are on the lookout for more cosponsors, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the newspaper noted that the “legislation faces a steep climb in a GOP-dominated legislature that five years ago barely legalized a highly-regulated medical marijuana program.”

Compounding matters, the state’s Republican governor, Mike Dewine, said last year that it “would really be a mistake for Ohio, by legislation, to say that marijuana for adults is just ok.”

Here is what the bill introduced by Weinstein and Upchurch would do, per the Enquirer: “Adults age 21 and older could buy and possess up to 5 ounces of marijuana at a time and grow up to 12 mature plants for personal use,” the newspaper reported, while “[c]ities and villages could limit the type or number of marijuana businesses allowed within their borders.”

Ohio Looks to Michigan for Inspiration

Ohio need only look to its northern neighbor for an example on how to successfully implement a state-regulated recreational marijuana program. In 2018, voters in Michigan passed a measure at the ballot that legalized recreational pot, and the Wolverine State’s newly formed market has seen gangbuster sales.

Weinstein told the Enquirer that their proposed bill is actually modeled after the Michigan law. “The bill would keep Ohio’s medical marijuana program, approved in 2016 and launched in 2019, intact,” the newspaper said, while medical “cultivators, processors and dispensaries could be licensed on the recreational side, too.”

Upchurch and fellow Democratic lawmaker Sedrick Denson introduced a bill earlier this year that would allow “for the cultivation and possession of marihuana, to modify possession and cultivation penalties, and to allow for expungement of certain marihuana convictions.”

That legislation, House Bill 210, “has yet to have a hearing,” according to the Enquirer, while another bill introduced last year that would have decriminalized marijuana use went up in smoke without a hearing. 

Ohio voters passed a measure legalizing medical marijuana in 2016, but the law did not get off the ground for another two years. Last year, the state’s medical board agreed to add cachexia, or wasting syndrome, to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, although the same panel rejected proposals to add autism and anxiety to the list.

Last month, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program instituted new rules governing the sale of Delta-8 THC, among them a requirement stating that “the use of Delta-8 THC must include a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that describes the process and methods with which Delta-8 THC will be used in compliance” with the state law.

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