Ohio state Senate President Matt Huffman said last week that he will not act on a petition to legalize recreational cannabis and dared reform activists advancing the proposal to take the issue to voters in a statewide election. Huffman, one of the most powerful Republican lawmakers in Ohio and the leader of the GOP-controlled state Senate, told reporters that he would not bring the adult-use cannabis legalization proposal sponsored by the group the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol up for a vote.
“I don’t want anybody to misunderstand my position,” Huffman said, as quoted by the Columbus Dispatch. “I’m not going to bring it to the Senate floor. And if that means people want to go put it on the ballot, have at it.”
Last month, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol had submitted petitions with about 136,000 verified signatures from registered voters, more than enough to send the legalization proposal to lawmakers for consideration. Under Ohio law, the state legislature was then given four months to adopt the measure as it is written or pass an amended version.
If lawmakers fail to do so, the campaign can collect another 132,887 signatures to bring the proposal to voters via a ballot measure for this year’s general election. Tom Haren, a spokesman for the campaign, called on state lawmakers to approve the recreational marijuana legalization bid after LaRose announced on January 28 that the group had collected enough signatures to send the proposal to the legislature.
“We are ready and eager to work with Ohio legislators over the next four months to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Ohio,” Haren said in a statement. “We are also fully prepared to collect additional signatures and take this issue directly to voters on November 8, 2022, if legislators fail to act.”
Proposal Would Legalize Recreational Pot for Adults
If passed, the proposal from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol would permit adults 21 and older to legally possess and purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of concentrates. Adults would also be permitted to cultivate up to six cannabis plants at home, with a cap of 12 plants per household.
The measure would also levy a 10 percent tax on cannabis products. Revenue raised by the tax would be used to fund the administration of the cannabis program and shared with municipalities that agree to allow marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in their jurisdictions. Taxes would also fund substance abuse programs.
Huffman is not the only state GOP leader to publicly oppose the efforts to legalize pot for adults. Republican Governor Mike DeWine, who campaigned against a recreational cannabis legalization ballot as state attorney general in 2015, has said he will veto an adult-use cannabis bill if one reaches his desk.
“No, I think that’s a mistake,” DeWine said. “I think you change the culture, and you send a signal to kids … If it’s legal, every kid, the message is, it’s okay.”
And House Majority Leader Bill Seitz said that a bill to legalize recreational cannabis introduced by fellow Republicans is unlikely to be approved.
“I have not read the bill, but I am doubtful it could pass,” said Seitz. “My own bipartisan bill to allow medical marijuana for autism spectrum treatment still hasn’t even made it out of committee, and this newly proposed bill is a giant leap beyond that one.”
Haren said that he believes Republicans have declined to bring the campaign’s proposal up for a vote because they fear it will succeed.
“I sort of suspect that the reason folks in leadership are saying they don’t want to bring our proposal to the floor is that they suspect it will pass if it gets to the floor,” he said. “Otherwise, there would be no concern.”