Ohio Voters Approve Legal Marijuana

Stephen Andrews
13 Nov 2023

Ohio officially became the 24th state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for adult use after a voter initiative successfully passed on the ballot in the state’s 2023 elections. The cannabis reform will permit Ohioans of legal age above 21 to freely use and purchase cannabis for recreational purposes and cultivate plants at home.

Ohio voters approved a measure legalizing recreational cannabis on Tuesday, Nov. 5, after state lawmakers failed to pass the proposed measure during last year. 

With the passage of Issue 2, Ohio is now the 24th state in the U.S. that allows adult cannabis use in addition to medicinal use. The reform law was approved with 57% of votes in favor of Issue 2, also known as An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis. 

For proponents and activists, it has been a years-long struggle to get to this point. “Marijuana is no longer a controversial issue,” proclaimed Tom Haren from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

“Ohioans demonstrated this by passing State Issue 2 in a landslide. Ohioans are being extremely clear on the future they want for our state: adult-use marijuana legal and regulated,” Haren added in a statement.

What Are the Provisions of Ohio’s New Cannabis Law? 

With the passage of the reform bill in Ohio, adults 21 and above will be able to legally purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and to grow up to 6 plants at home. Purchases will be subject to a 10% tax, and the collected tax money will be relocated for administrative costs, addiction programs and social equity programs that support the sector. 

The new law will take effect on Dec. 7, 2023. However, it doesn’t mean that on this date Ohioans will immediately have access to legal recreational weed at dispensaries statewide. 

Issue 2 grants state regulators a period of 9 months to formulate all necessary details about establishing a legal recreational market. The Department of Commerce’s Division of Cannabis Control will start accepting and reviewing applications for adult-use operators and testing licenses within six months (May-June, 2024). The division will need to grant licenses within nine months (September, 2024). 

Until the market launch, Ohioans without a MMJ card would not be able to legally purchase marijuana in the state of Ohio, though they can definitely start growing their own. 

Smoking weed would be a subject to similar rules as to smoking cigarettes, thus public indoor places will be some of the places where smoking is prohibited. Lawmakers would still need to determine other details about public use. 

Long Road to Legal Weed in Ohio

There are huge potentials for legal recreational cannabis in Ohio. However, there are a lot of political agents in the state that are obviously against legal weed. The current Republican-led leadership as well had an opportunity to legalize cannabis during last year.

The cannabis reform bill was initiated by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in January 2022, when GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose submitted petitions to the Ohio General Assembly on behalf of the coalition. This triggered a four-month period for the Republican leadership to act, however, the lawmakers elaborated that the group’s petitions were submitted too late for the 2022 ballot. 

Reform has also been opposed by business and manufacturing organizations whose main argument is that legal weed will have a negative effect on workplace and road safety. 

The passage of Issue 2 as a voter-initiated measure is a culmination point, though it doesn’t mean that its provisions will remain untouched. While the stakes are higher now, lawmakers are likely to revise the measure’s tax structure and even try to put restrictions on commercial sales, advertising and production. 

Republican Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman said in a statement that lawmakers should also reconsider “questionable language” regarding limits on THC. “This statute was written by the marijuana industry and should not be treated as a cash grab for their cash crop at the expense of a state trying to emerge from the opioid crisis,” his statement said. 

The first attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio took place in 2015. A year later, however, The Heart of It All state launched a legal medicinal cannabis market and currently has more than 125,000 patients registered with the state medical cannabis program. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

What Are the Economic Effects of Legalization?

Unprecedented Support for Legal Marijuana

How Would Legalization Change the U.S.?

Stephen Andrews