Ohio Attorney General Rejects Recreational Cannabis Proposal

Ohio just got dealt a blow to legalization, as the attorney general rejected a proposal for recreational cannabis.

Ohio attorney general Dave Yost has rejected an advocacy group’s proposal and signatures to legalize recreational cannabis.

Attorney General Yost published a letter on August 5, stating that the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol did not meet the necessary requirements for his approval. The legalization proposal, called “An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis,” seeks to add a chapter to the Ohio Revised Code in order to legalize cannabis for recreational use. If this proposal became law, it would have legalized recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older and create rules for sales, possession and home cultivation. 

A press release on Yost’s government website states that it’s his job to decide if a proposed summary is “a fair and truthful representation of the proposed statute.” In this case, he believes the legalization initiative did not provide an accurate summary on multiple counts. “I note that your Petition does not seek to enact a single law; rather, it seeks to add an entire chapter to the Ohio Revised Code.” Yost’s letter proceeds to list seven points that led to his decision, as summarized below:

  1. The summary did not explain the Division of Cannabis Control’s (DCC) regulatory authority. While it does “generally” list out the organization’s umbrella of jurisdiction, Yost says that there wasn’t enough explanation.
  2. The summary mentions social equity and job efforts, but “omits any meaningful explanation of any of the purposes of the program.”
  3. It lacks explanation of what they mean by the DCC’s “additional procedures and requirements.”
  4. It doesn’t include a wording distinction in the rules regarding the differences between cultivating at home and possession limits.
  5. The section that talks about protections for people who “engage in conduct permitted under the Act,” does not have enough information. “Even though these protections are statutorily created, the summary merely lists, but does not meaningfully explain, what any of them are,” Yost described.
  6. The statute doesn’t disclose enough about the DCC’s duties when it comes to providing information to financial institutions. 
  7. The summary’s list of protections for employers to implement their own hiring policies doesn’t go into detail about what prevents an employer from discriminating against applicants. “… although the summary states that an employer is not required to accommodate an employee’s cannabis use, it fails to indicate that the proposed law does not prohibit an employer from retaliating or discriminating against an employee for their legal cannabis use.”

Ohio Still Has Hope 

This is just the first batch of signatures that the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has collected this year, according to Cleveland.com. Yost concluded that these changes aren’t intended to deter the advocacy group, but that his suggestions should be taken into consideration for when they decide to resubmit signatures in the future. “In total, the summary does not properly advise a potential signer of a proposed measure’s character and limitations,” Yost wrote. 

“For these reasons, I am unable to certify the summary as a fair and truthful statement of the proposed chapter. However, I must caution that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all defects in the submitted summary. Finally, I recommend that the Petitioners carefully review and scrutinize the remainder of the summary to ensure that it accurately captures the proposed chapter’s definitions, contents and purport before it is resubmitted to this Office.”

Tom Haren, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, briefly commented on the attorney general’s decision. “All I can really say at this point is it just came in,” said Haren. “We’re reviewing. But we do plan to resubmit.” The Coalition is already planning to circulate its petition as a statewide initiative (which allows citizens to propose a law change directly to the state legislature). This same method is how the state of Ohio approved medical cannabis in 2016, which launched in 2018.

There are other parties interested in seeing recreational cannabis come to Ohio as well. In July 15, House Representatives Casey Weinstein and Terrence Upchurch introduced legislation to legalize recreational cannabis sales and cultivation.

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